6/28/08

SEIU contract shortens gov't work week

Net gain for overworked, underpaid union members

Hemet (CA) City Hall will start closing every other Friday starting July 11. The new schedule is the result of a new contract between the city and its largest union, the Service Employees International Union local representing workers outside the public safety agencies.

The contract offers the employees increases in neither salary nor benefits, but does provide for a day off every other week, said Deputy City Manager Mark Orme. The contract will last two years, from July 1 this year through June 30, 2010.

Under the new schedule, City Hall will open half an hour earlier at 7:30 a.m. and close half an hour later at 5:30 p.m. than current hours, except on the Fridays, when the schedule will be 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Employees working under the new schedule work eight nine-hour days and one eight-hour day over a period of two weeks.

Though the city has a no-overtime policy, the contract allows for overtime when it becomes necessary.

The overtime rate is 1 1/2 times the employee's regular pay and starts after 40 hours in a seven-day period.

There was no change to the retirement plan. The city will continue its contribution of all but 1 percent of employees' contribution to the Public Employee Retirement System, from which workers can receive 2.7 percent of their salary for each year worked starting at age 55.

The new work schedule does not include refuse collectors, but the new contract allows the union to study that possibility and report to the city on its feasibility.

Orme said the contract provides an increase in the amount of medical, dental, and vision insurance the city will cover to $805 per month for full-time employees and $402.50 for part-time employees, but other changes involving work hours will save the city an equal amount of money.

“It's a wash,” Orme said.

Another Service Employees International Union local, the one representing nonsworn employees of the Police Department, has yet to sign a contract with the city. That local is seeking improvements in salary and benefits.

Among the police employees represented by the local are dispatchers and community service officers.

The union has declared an impasse, often a step preceding a strike. However, the police employees cannot strike under California law.

The city is also in discussions with public safety unions seeking concessions to reduce budget pressures resulting from scheduled increases.

Though members of the other SEIU local got no raises with the new contract, they still qualify for so-called step increases and those already at the top step of the salary range can still get longevity increases.

(thevalleychronicle.com)

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