Wanted: Programmers willing to work for minimum wage

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, entering a new fiscal year without a budget, this month laid off more than 10,000 temporary and part-time state workers. He also ordered that all remaining state employees be paid the federal minimum wage of $6.55 an hour beginning next month until a new budget is passed.

However, state Controller John Chiang told the Sacramento Bee that it would take at least six months to reprogram the state's Vietnam-era relic of a payroll system, and another nine to 10 months to issue back pay after a budget is approved.

It seems that the payroll system uses the Common Business Oriented Language, which no longer is taught in computer science schools. The best source of Cobol programmers is retired information technology workers who often are called back to the job to help maintain legacy systems.

Unfortunately, the retired state employees doing this kind of work were among the employees who were laid off. It is estimated that replacing the outdated system would cost $177 million, which the legislature has balked at paying.

Good luck talking any of the old-timers into coming back to work so they can cut their pay to minimum wage.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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