3/13/08

Jumbo gov't-union enjoys sick-time payoffs

Andover (MA) leaders may go cap-in-hand to the taxpayers, begging them for a Proposition 2-1/2 override of something around $4 million to balance the books for the coming year. Taxpayers should treat this request with the utmost skepticism unless town leaders end, right now, the ludicrous practice of throwing buckets of their money at town employees in payment for unused sick time.

Andover public employees — police, fire and members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME — have contracts that allow them to earn sick time over the course of a year and accumulate it year to year.

When those workers retire, they are owed "terminal leave pay," that is, they are paid again for days they did not call in sick. Police, for example, can accrue up to 200 days of sick time. AFSCME employees — public works, plant and facilities workers — have no limits on their sick time accumulation.

Reporter Courtney Paquette found that terminal leave pay has cost Andover $1.2 million over the past three years — $511,012 in the past fiscal year alone.

Sick time is a benefit that is meant to pay people should they have the misfortune to fall ill a few days a year. It isn't meant to be accumulated into a retirement windfall. At many private companies, employees get five, 10 or maybe 15 sick days a year. If they don't need them, they're gone at the end of the year.

Yet Andover leaders crow that they've found a solution to the high cost of terminal leave pay — they pay workers to cash in their sick days earlier. Once an employee has accumulated a minimum number of sick days, he or she can sell a portion of them back to the town. This saves money, according to police Chief Brian Pattullo, because they are selling them back at current pay rates, not the higher rates they'd be earning at retirement.

Sick time buy-backs have cost Andover about $600,000 over the past three years. That's a total of $1.8 million paid to town workers for not taking sick time.

How about this: Every worker gets 15 sick days a year. And at the end of the year, they're gone.

That would end the ridiculous practice of paying healthy people bonuses for nothing more than showing up to work as they should be expected to.

(eagletribune.com)

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