December 21, 2014

Elyria
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Elyria considers change to overtime policy

ELYRIA — A proposal to change a long-held policy regarding overtime for city managers, supervisors and foremen — the middle management who bridge the gap between department heads and union employees — is being considered.

On Monday night, Safety Service Director Mary Siwierka asked the City Council Finance Committee to change a few portions of Chapter 165 of the city’s codified ordinances to reduce the number of overtime hours non-union employees can earn.

When an employee is called into work beyond a regular shift and it’s at a time that is not within an hour of the start or end of the day — regardless of how much work is performed — that employee receives four hours of overtime pay.

When it’s closer to the start or end of the workday, they receive two hours of overtime.

“Overtime is not supposed to be for hypothetical time or bonus time,” Siwierka said. “If you look to other cities in terms of overtime for their managers and supervisors, I am sure you will see that Elyria’s policy is much more generous.”

Siwierka said the proposal calls for overtime to go from four-hour increments to two-hour blocks, and from two hours to one hour nearer to a shift start or end.

Conservatively speaking, it could save the city $50,000 a year, she said.

Roughly 25 employees fall into the category of non-union middle management.

Committee members passed the measure so it can be voted on by the full Council, but there appears to be some reluctance to change the longstanding policy. It will likely see three readings, which is unusual for Council as legislation is typically voted on much sooner.

This portion of Chapter 165 has been on the books for non-union employees since at least 1997 and likely took effect when one or all of the six collective bargaining groups in the city negotiated the perk.

Council then voted to give the same benefit to union employees. In the colloquial sense, it’s commonly referred to as the “me, too” caveat of collective bargaining agreements.

Councilman Larry Tanner, D-1st Ward, questioned why the administration was pushing so hard for the change. It was brought to Council last July, but was rejected with little discussion.

“It’s just a way of getting a hammer to use against the union to say this is what management is doing, so you should do it, too,” he said.

Mayor Holly Brinda said if changing the ordinance affects negotiations, that should not be seen as a bad thing.

“We have spent too many years being backwards in our discussions,” she said. “We need to lead by example. We value our employees and want to compensate all fairly, which is why we have to have these conversations. It’s about being fair to the employees, the city and the taxpayers.”

Tanner said the change could lead to employees not coming in when called.

However, Richard Jackson, the city’s assistant safety service director in charge of human resources, said he doesn’t foresee that happening. Those who want to work overtime will come in, he said.

“But you can’t say that person can get 20 hours of overtime and actually only work nine hours. It’s not fair to taxpayers,” he said.

Law Director Scott Serazin said there are many sections of Chapter 165 that began in union contracts.

“A lot of them weren’t probably thought through clearly as to how they would affect management and employees,” Serazin said. “It goes without saying that when management is called out to do something and union employees are called out to do something, they are there to do very different jobs.”

Other changes to Chapter 165 that are being requested will affect employees less. They involve pay premiums for working weekends, reimbursement for parking and having an employee savings bond plan. The latter two are more about housekeeping as the practices have long disappeared, but the ordinances stayed on the books.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @LisaRobersonCT.