'Waging' The Ongoing Battle For Obtaining And Retaining Skilled Help

The recently released PMPA 2002 Wage Benefits&Work Schedule Report is a major resource helping PMPA members make sure they are competitive in the skilled employee marketplace. As the name of the report suggests, the report covers wages for most hourly wage jobs found in the shop as well as an overview of benefits provided, including costs to the employees and a look at work schedules throughout the industry.

The recently released PMPA 2002 Wage Benefits & Work Schedule Report is a major resource helping PMPA members make sure they are competitive in the skilled employee marketplace. As the name of the report suggests, the report covers wages for most hourly wage jobs found in the shop as well as an overview of benefits provided, including costs to the employees and a look at work schedules throughout the industry.

In taking a look at wages in the current report, which is based on the pay period ending nearest to September 15, 2001, compared to the preceding year for the same time, we see that the average wage for all companies reporting in the United States increased a little more than 4 percent from a year ago, with all districts shown in the report sharing in this increase. Increases were seen in jobs in the "Production" area and "Services" group, but they were offset slightly by the reduction in the average wage in the "Finishing & Assembly" job grouping.

In the report of "Wage Rates Groups By Number Of Employees Per Company," which provides measures based on company size, there is a 7.6 percent average increase in the wage for companies with fewer than 23 employees, a 9.7 percent average increase in companies with 23-49 employees and a 6.8 percent average increase for companies with 80-97 employees. This was offset by the smallest increase in any of the groups: those companies with more than 97 employees, which had an average wage increase of only 1.7 percent. In the report on "Individual Wage Rates Grouped By Districts," which provides a complete listing by district of all wages paid, the lowest hourly wage paid in the "Production" area was $6.30 for a trainee entry level position, compared to the lowest hourly wage reported in the "Finishing/Assembly" area of $6.60 for an assembler, and in the "Services" area of $7.00 for a packer, a truck driver and a material handler. One custodian came in at $6.00.

In the "Analysis Of Companies Reporting In Both Last Year's And This Year's Reports," we find that changes in the average wage rate paid are "all over the board," as seen in the chart below.

It is interesting to look at the "Employee Distribution By Departments" and see that the average company in the United States has 53.8 percent of its employees in production, 3.9 percent in finishing and assembly, 17.3 percent in services, 2.1 percent in contract temporaries and 22.8 percent in all other areas, including administration.

It is also interesting to review the "Employee Portion Of Costs For Medical Plans By Districts" for the types of coverages offered and the cost to the employees, as well as the deductible amounts and whether prescription costs are covered. We see co-pays for office visits ranging from no cost to $20, and prescription coverage when offered ranges anywhere from $3 to $35. While all companies offer medical coverage, the cost to the employees for various levels of coverages varies widely, from the low for family coverage of no monthly cost to the employee up to the high of $549 per month. Vacation plans vary from 1 week being offered after 6 months to 1 week after 13 months, and from 4 weeks after 5 years to 4 weeks after 25 years.

Under "Other Benefit Plans By District," some companies offer bonus plans, gainsharing and profit sharing, and a few have pension plans. Many companies are moving into 401(k) plans reflecting a variety of methods for calculating company contributions. Under "Additional Benefits Checklist By Districts," many companies throughout the United States offer various benefits such as attendance incentives, Christmas parties, payroll direct deposit, prescription safety glasses, tuition reimbursement and so on.

"Fringe Benefit Cost Percent Of Base Wages By Districts" ranges on average from one district with a low of 20 percent to another district with an average of 43 percent. Under "Work Schedules," an increasing number of companies offer 4-day work weeks, allowing employees greater flexibility in their work schedules and 3-day weekends off (assuming no overtime). Under "Premiums/Incentives By District," many companies offer employees second and third shift wage premiums that are "all over the board," with some based on percentage of wage and others with a flat dollars and cents increase per hour.

PMPA's Wage, Benefits & Work Schedule Survey/Report is one of the most comprehensive looks at employee wages, distribution, medical coverage and work schedules that any industry has available. This report is without a doubt the most widely used resource provided to PMPA's members on an annual basis. It is one of the most important tools available to PMPA members in the ongoing battle to obtain and retain skilled help, not only within individual companies, but within the industry overall.