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Employees at Utah's state-owned liquor stores, whose wages have been an issue for management, soon will be getting a pay increase.
The Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (DABC) will raise the minimum salary levels for liquor store managers, assistant store managers and many retail clerks immediately, according to a news release issued Monday from Gov. Gary Herbert's office.
Liquor store managers will earn a minimum of $15.25 per hour; assistant store managers will make $12.25 an hour while many sales clerks will make $10.25, the news release states.
The clerks until recently had been earning $9 an hour. Prior rates for the other positions weren't available Monday evening.
Sen. Karen Mayne, D-West Valley City, said the raises are a good step and "decades overdue" but that more needs to change.
"If the state of Utah has one retail establishment and we can't run it well, something is wrong," said Mayne, who has criticized the DABC for its treatment of employees. "We need to take care of our employees. They are professional people. We need to treat them as such."
Kerri Adams, a retired DABC employee who worked as the liquor department's human-resource specialist and training manager, said the increases aren't big enough to make up for the working conditions employees have complained of.
"It's a very cynical move," she said. "They're trying to deflect criticism from a lot of the major ongoing issues at the DABC."
In all, 74 employees will receive the salary increases. The new rates are effective immediately, and in some cases are retroactive, and will be reflected in the pay period ending July 31, the release said.
The pay increases were generated from several areas including: the 2.25 percent general increase for all state employees which took effect on July 1; consolidating positions so managers over see more than one store and hot spot funding identified in the Governor's Budget and approved by the Legislature.
Adams said the consolidated management practices have actually created more difficulties for lower-level employees, as they assume bigger workloads to pick up duties that managers of two stores are stretched too thin to perform.
"We've essentially got people making $10 an hour running a store," Adams said.
The DABC has been under fire for several years for its low salaries, which experts believe causes a high turn over rate and low morale.