The Presbyterian Mission Agency Board (PMAB) turned down a proposal made by the Justice Committee to give larger salary increases to PMA staff members on the lower-tier of pay scales during a full plenary session Friday, Sept. 27 in Louisville, Ky.
The proposal came in the form of a motion made by board member Raafat Zaki during Thursday’s Justice Committee meeting following the presentation of data related to a gender equity pay scale by Human Resources (HR) representative Ruth Gardner.
Gardner had presented the HR findings for 291 PMA employees in the study that also looked at gender and racial comparisons. She said length of service is the predominant reason for most discrepancies in pay, though combining benefits with salary tends to provide favorable compensation packages.
“Our job is to make sure we don’t have inequity in our denomination,” she said.
Thursday’s committee discussion hinged on HR providing a more thorough detailed report at the February meeting, but Zaki fashioned the following motion for the committee to consider: “That effective immediately all pay raises for employees of PMA will be made on a progressive scale of 3 to 1, thereby giving the largest percentage raises to the employees receiving the lower salaries and the smaller percentage raises to the higher salaries.”
Justice Committee Chair Noelle Royer initially balked at the motion, saying she did not think it could stand as presented and asked Zaki to amend or refer it to the Personnel Subcommittee for a February recommendation. Royer asked where a line would be drawn in determining the salary ranges (highest to lowest) to apply the appropriate increase.
“I disagree and believe the motion is in order,” Zaki responded. “We were at this point last year, and now we’re back to square one. I do not wish to go the same route and refer this again, wait another year and let us know at the next meeting. I don’t want to hear it won’t work. I want to know why it won’t work. We need to honor people who are not compensated well on salaries.”
Board member James Ephraim said he did not question Zaki’s rationale but wondered aloud if the committee was adequately prepared to make an informed decision.
“We give guidance to personnel, not vice versa. I would appreciate an up or down vote of this body,” Zaki said.
The motion was approved, sending the measure before the full board a day later.
Zaki argued on Friday that the motion was a principle of justice and compassion, “to love our neighbor as we love ourselves” in proposing a 3-percent salary increase for lower-paid employees and 1 percent to those with the higher salaries.
That increase would trump the current 2-percent increase for all employees and the 1-percent merit increase. Royer noted that the pay ratio at the present time is 7:67 to 1, highest to lowest.
“It’s not intended to disadvantage the upper tier but benefit the bottom and middle levels,” Zaki said of the proposal.
Board member Marianne Rhebergen asked if numbers had been crunched to determine future implications of such a measure, and Gardner said there had not been time to look at such long-term effects since the motion had been made just 24 hours earlier.
Speaking against the proposal, board member Nancy Ramsay said the motion would significantly alter the current compensation package, a stance supported by fellow board member Josephine Stewart but countered by Zaki.
“This change will have an impact,” Stewart said. “When you begin to compress salaries, you will have difficulty attracting and retaining employees. There will be financial implications going forward. The implications will be more complicated than they appear to be.”
Zaki responded, “This will not mess up any competitive package. How does the church live into and model compassionate justice when we are making the rich richer and the poor poorer?”
Board member Glen Snider opposed such a notion of “rewarding the rich and oppressing the poor.”
“What we’re hearing from our personnel committee is that we are fairly and justly compensating our employees … but it keeps coming back that we are oppressing lower salaries,” Snider said. “That’s not a philosophy I support based on the evidence.”
In other action regarding the Justice Committee, the board gave approval to add to the approved affiliates list Creation Justice Ministries, successor to the National Council of Churches Eco-Justice Working Group that deals with environmental issues, and the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST), which deals with human trafficking, forced labor and other forms of human slavery.
The committee was given consent by the board to allocate $146,519 in requests from Building Services and Informational Technology from the capital reserve budget for a drinking fountain replacement, server replacement, copier replacements, and mail/print binding and folding machines.
The PMAB received the report on the Consultation on Theological Education in Asia and affirmed the World Mission and Theology, Worship and Education ministry areas in their work with the Committee on Theological Education and PCUSA seminaries to explore implementing its findings.
Additionally, the board approved a motion to delay any action on the Christmas Joy Offering Institutional Standards and appoint Nancy Ramsay to assist April Davenport to revise wording for the February 2014 meeting of the Leadership Committee.
The board approved a motion from the Audit Committee regarding removal of corporate credit card and computer access by all separated employees.
The recommendation was that all computer system and corporate credit card access shall be immediately removed from separated employees, regardless of the circumstances associated with the separation of employment.
This action is geared toward minimizing the risk associated with employment separation by helping the organization safeguard its assets and providing reasonable assurance of ongoing protection of systems, programs and data, while retaining appropriate access by authorized users.
“An internal control really needs to be in place,” said Molly Baskin, a member of the Audit Committee. “This action safeguards our assets and computer system.”
The board gave consent for the release of General Assembly restricted funds grants in the amount of $92,269 to six congregations and agreed to the following recommendations by the Executive Committee:
- To appoint Betty Jones to serve as the PMAB representative on the Jarvie Commonweal Service Committee for a second three-year term beginning Jan. 1, 2014.
- Approval of the listing of special days and programming emphases for 2015 that will be listed in the Presbyterian Planning Calendar and other materials.
- Gave its OK for the Program Evaluation Process, a systematic method to review and evaluate the goals, objectives and activities of all programs and program areas of the Presbyterian Mission Agency. All programs and program areas will be reviewed at least once within a four-year rotation period to determine how well the goals and objectives are being achieved and if they are in alignment with the PMA’s Mission Work Plan.
- In response to a directive from the 220th General Assembly, gave approval for the PMA board to meet at least once every two years with the elected leadership of the Advocacy Committee for Racial Ethnic Concerns (ACREC) and the Advocacy Committee for Women’s Concerns (ACWC).
- Amended the description of the Mission Responsibility Through Investment Committee (MRTI), Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) and the Presbyterian Hunger Program Advisory Committee (PHPAC) in the PMA Manual of Operations.
- Authorized the chair and vice chair of the board to review and approve requests to celebrate Holy Communion between regular meetings of the Executive Committee, eliminating the need to call special meetings to approve last-minute requests for approval.