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Company Raises Pay to Help Workers With Gas Prices

July 20, 2008

By Virgil Larson, Omaha World-Herald, Neb.

Jul. 20–Smeal Fire Apparatus Co. in Snyder, Neb., found a straightforward way to help its employees with the cost of driving to work: It raised their pay by 50 cents an hour.

Jeff Scherer, the company’s chief financial officer, said it costs $90 to fill his gas tank.

“That’s hurting my pocketbook, so I can about imagine what kind of an effect that is having on people in our plants, whether they’re making $12 an hour or $16 an hour,” he said.

The company employs 350 people in Snyder, where it builds firetrucks. A Neligh plant has 25 workers, and 25 others are employed at an associated company, Smeal Manufacturing Co., also in Snyder.

Smeal draws employees from a wide area and as gas prices rose, Scherer said, management went to the board of directors with this message: “We have to do something quick.”

Beginning in May, the company added 50 cents an hour to the pay of hourly workers and an equivalent amount for salaried workers.

Smeal employees generally are not allowed to work from home.

“From draftsmen to production employees to the plant nurse, it’s important that they are here,” Scherer said.

Scherer, the numbers guy at the company, figures it this way: An employee driving from Fremont, making a 70-mile round trip five days a week in a pickup that gets 15 miles per gallon, would spend $1.97 on fuel for every hour worked (employees are guaranteed 45 hours a week).

In another effort to retain its “very skilled” employees, he said, the company considered operating commuter buses to various pick-up points.

–Contact the writer: 444-1081, virgil.larson@owh.com

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