Anchorage, Alaska — “You can’t tell me this ain’t going to help my health.”
That’s what one of the world’s largest employers in Alaska told the state’s health department Wednesday, just days after it said a worker there was making a $2,000 paycheck for the first time in his or her life.
The employer of 732 people in the state, which sits on Alaska’s southern coast, is the largest employer in Alaska and employs more than 11,000 people.
“We know the Alaska industry is tough and that it’s not easy to make a living,” Jeff Rees, CEO of the Anchorage sawmill told a state health department staff meeting.
“I want to assure you that this is a pay increase.
We’ve made it.”
Rees said his employees were on the verge of losing their jobs when the company began offering pay raises earlier this year.
The raises came as part of a $1 billion package of new tax incentives for Alaska businesses.
The company, which employs nearly 1,400 workers, said the new pay raises would have been worth $3,000 to $5,000 per employee, depending on age and experience.
Alaska’s health director, Chris Nespe, told a news conference Wednesday that the increase was a good sign and suggested the pay raises were “a sign that the state is finally starting to see that this economic recovery is making a real difference.”
“There’s going to be some people who will feel a bit better in their jobs,” he said.
Alaskan health officials said they are investigating the matter and will take any necessary action.
Rees did not respond to questions about whether any employees would be able to receive the pay raise or whether it was related to the health department’s investigation.
Alcohol, drug and other issues plaguing the sawmill have contributed to the decline in worker pay, the Alaska Dispatch News reported.
Nespe said he had not received any inquiries about the pay hike from employees, but did not rule out the possibility.
“Our first priority is to ensure the health and safety of our workers, and we have not received anything related to that,” he told the newspaper.