"We're just trying to do what we can to recognize and reward a group of employees who've done aphenomenal job," said Richard Wells, the chancellor of UW-Oshkosh.This year, UW-Oshkosh handed out 124 merit raises and bonuses to employees like custodians, officeworkers, police, power plant operators and more."Those people are very important and the work they do in a university community is highly-valued,sometimes not recognized, but highly-valued," Wells said.It's not just universities handing out bonuses and merit raises.TheDepartment of Justicehanded out 101 bonuses and merit raises. The biggest: A merit raise worth$7,105.28 a year for an administrative manager. The raise brought his salary up to $86,796.40. Through aspokesperson, Attorney General J.B. Hollen declined to sit down for an interview for this story.No one from theDepartment of Public Instructionwould talk with us either. That agency awarded 36 bonusesand merit raises. One director received a merit raise worth $10,657.92 a year, bringing his salary to$91,289.12. A spokesman said the agency "experienced higher than normal turnover over the past two years"and the bonuses and merit raises were "for pay equity issues."Why are some employees given a lump sum bonus and others a raise? It's all based on the state'scompensation plan. Employees who are paid by the hour are only eligible for lump sum payments, which arebasically a one-time bonus. Workers who are paid a salary can get either a bonus or a merit raise.Not everyone likes the idea."Getting a lump sum is like getting a turkey at Christmas time. They get $500 and it goes away," said MartyBeil, the executive director of theState Employees Union.His position on bonuses and merit raises is whatyou might expect from a union leader."Why should that groundskeeper get it? What's different between that groundskeeper and this groundskeeperif they'reworking in the same crew?" he said.Beil says he would support the idea of merit pay but only if there were more protections for workers."Well, the question is, are the top performers actually getting it? And my answer is, I don't think they are,"Beil said.When asked how he knows that, Beil replied, "Well, if you look at the lists, I get the lists like you get the lists.We run the lists against our local unions and we ask the question: What did this person do to warrant a merit?And I don't know that those are the best performers who are getting those merits."Governor Scott Walker (R-Wisconsin), who has pushed the merit pay and bonus program, says it beats thealternative."The old system, that those folks are complaining want, is where everybody got the same. They say thatthey're for merit but then if you look at the past record, they want everybody to get the same," Walker said.When asked if why this is the time to hand out bonuses and merit raises, Walker replied, "Because wepromised it. We made that promise over the past two years when we made the changes to balance thebudget."
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