We are over a month into North Carolina’s new fiscal year and we still don’t have a state budget. Republican infighting and the lack of a state budget has huge implications for workers in North Carolina, workplace safety, and the public safety of all North Carolinians. Let’s dive into how.
The state budget sets salaries for government workers whose work is integral to everyday life. Without a new budget, departments are forced to use prior year numbers to pay their employees.
Why It Matters: The inability to provide competitive wages makes it hard for important positions to be filled, and the number of vacancies continues to increase as state lawmakers debate how much to pay state workers and teachers.
- The NC Office of State Human Resources reported nearly 1 in 4 state positions are going unfilled, including 5,000 teachers, and these vacancy rates are just increasing.
- Just last week, parents of public school students in Wake County were encouraged to find their own transportation to and from school for the entire 2023–2024 school year due to the massive bus driver shortage.
While the state tries to fill these government jobs and principals attempt to hire teachers and bus drivers for this upcoming school year, they are met with the dilemma of not having a state budget or set salary for these workers. The interconnectivity of not having a budget and the increase in worker shortages is coming to a head, and North Carolinians are feeling it.
The inability to hire workers even extends to the North Carolina Department of Labor (NCDOL), where important public safety positions are vacant.
Almost 25% of NCDOL compliance officer positions budgeted for are unfilled. Some of the responsibilities of these officers include inspecting:
- amusement park rides.
- workplace accidents and fatalities.
Why It Matters: Not only are these compliance officers pivotal for looking into accidents after they occur, but they also play a consequential role in preventing workplace fatalities.
- The importance of these roles was elevated to the national conscience this summer after a crack in the roller coaster Fury 325 at Carowinds was discovered by a park attendee.
- The lack of a budget that provides competitive employee raises makes it difficult for departments like the NCDOL to do its job under the law. Currently, there are 7 vacancies in the NCDOL’s 39 positions responsible for inspecting 25,000+ elevators every year. This makes life less safe for all North Carolinians.
- North Carolina workplace fatalities have also been climbing year to year. Unfortunately, a lack of compliance officers makes it difficult to ensure any workplace safety errors are corrected.
The Solution: It is vital that we have a fully staffed compliance officer team at the NCDOL so that every elevator, every escalator, every roller coaster, every ski lift, and every ride and ferris wheel at every county’s state fair, amongst many other moving pieces of equipment, is inspected correctly and as often as it should be. An efficient government means making sure departments can provide their necessary public service on time, every time.
As your next Commissioner of Labor, my top priority is to close the employment gap at the NCDOL so it can efficiently carry out its public safety role.
- Compliance officers at the NCDOL, like state workers across all departments, work extremely hard and are having to work overtime to keep our state safe and running.
- Recent studies show that 37% of people leave their job during their first year working for the state.
- Constantly having to hire new workers is expensive for taxpayers and fiscally irresponsible. We must do more for our workers to make sure they are being competitively compensated.
Our state workers deserve raises. Raises will help fill the empty positions, prevent turn over, and improve workplace and public safety across the entire state. When these jobs go unfilled, whether it is our compliance officers’ or teachers’ positions, important work does not get done, safety concerns get amplified, and it is hard for businesses to meet customers’ needs and thrive. As the NCGA negotiates the state budget, I stand firmly on calling the NC House & Senate to alleviate these shortages, do right by our workers, and allocate the raises they deserve as they work tirelessly to keep our state safe.