Ann Arbor ups pay for low-level city jobs to avoid being ’employer of last resort’

ANN ARBOR, MI — The city of Ann Arbor drew some criticism recently when it advertised a job opening in the city’s parks department paying $12.12 an hour.

“We’re hiring Zamboni drivers! Be the envy of all your friends,” the parks department wrote on Facebook, sharing the job posting saying management experience was preferred.

Members of the public reacted swiftly.

“No envy when the pay is $12/hr!” one wrote.

“How in the liberal city of Ann Arbor is our own city government offering a wage that’s almost 1/3 of the cost of living?” another added, telling the city to stop treating people like their time and effort don’t have a livable value.

It’s not the first time the city has been criticized for the rate it pays some of its lower-level employees, but city leaders seem to have taken the feedback to heart.

The parks department last week announced across-the-board wage increases for all temporary seasonal jobs, with the lowest starting pay for step-one hires now $15.66 an hour.

The Zamboni driver job posting now advertises a starting hourly rate of $17.28, while day camp counselor and swim instructor jobs now pay $16.86 and $18.15, respectively.

A temporary public works meter technician job is now advertised with an hourly rate of $20.50.

Some jobs previously came with pay as low as $9.87 an hour.

The city now plans to start holding itself to the standards it holds contractors who do work for the city and increase temp employee wage scales to living wages, Interim City Administrator Milton Dohoney said.

The city’s living wage ordinance requires city-hired contractors to pay their employees $14.05 an hour with health care benefits or $15.66 an hour without health care.

“We had an opportunity to address something that’s been a longstanding issue,” Dohoney said of the decision to increase temp employee wages. “Over the last several years, while we have asked the community to pay a living wage, we haven’t been able to actually do that ourselves. We have a number of positions that are critical to our service provision and, with the remainder of the current fiscal year, we are managing to increase the wage scale to living wage standards and that is important for us to be able to bring people on to serve the general public.”

Dohoney added, “And it’s also important to make sure that we are an employer of choice rather than being an employer of last resort, and so we’re very happy about that.”

The city typically hires about 525 temp employees each year and the estimated costs for the wage increases are $250,000 for the rest of this fiscal year and $1 million in the new fiscal year starting July 1, said Marti Praschan, chief financial officer.

City Council Member Jen Eyer, D-4th Ward, said she’s thrilled the city’s administration is addressing concerns she and other council members have had about compensation and job classifications for the city’s temporary workers.

“As a city, we must follow our own living wage ordinance, and we should not shirk our duty to workers by giving them temp status when they should be full-time,” she said.

Some of Eyer’s concerns trace back to last June. It has been council policy not to outsource trash collection, but a contract was presented to council last June that raised questions about whether temporary workers were being hired to do jobs that should be classified as full-time, she said.

“I moved to postpone that contract and asked for a review of the city’s temporary workers to determine whether there were job classifications that the city was hiring the same people year after year to fill, nine months out of the year,” she said, adding the administrator has told her the budget will address that issue as well, with a number of temporary workers being converted to full-time in the solid waste area.

“Ann Arbor should be a leader in treating workers fairly and with dignity,” Eyer said. “These changes will not only benefit workers, they will also ensure we are competitive in recruiting and retaining excellent employees so we can deliver the high-quality city services our residents expect and deserve.”

The parks department is now advertising “even bigger paychecks” for jobs at the city’s ice arenas and Mack Indoor Pool, encouraging residents to consider being a Zamboni driver, ice skating instructor, cashier, life guard, swim instructor or coach. There are a variety of jobs posted now and more spring/summer positions will be added in the coming weeks.

See city job openings.


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