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City mulling measures to reduce staff hours

The city has been looking at ways to save on operation expenses by asking employees to voluntarily cut back their hours.

It is one of many moves aimed at reducing the city’s overall expenditures in a year of constrained revenues.

Concerns that some cost-saving proposals would infringe on union-brokered employment contracts were allayed Thursday; city and union officials agreed that there would be no new measures to reduce employee hours. City staff are members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers union.

In emails circulated by City Administrator Mark Dombroski last week, staff were asked if they would voluntarily reduce their work hours.

“I had sent out an email if anyone would consider a curtailed schedule,” Dombroski said. “That is a standard practice for meeting budget. It is not a union issue. We have a number of employees that work less than one full-time employee. There are 10 or more that work part time,” he said.

According to city staff, there were ongoing discussions to further scale back operating expenses and curtail work schedules.

One idea was to shut down City Hall for two weeks during the winter holiday period. In that two-week time, employees would have been encouraged to use their vacation allotment or would be granted permission for leave without pay. Another option involved shutting down City Hall for one day a week and putting employees on a four-day, 10-hour shift schedule.

The latter proposal is acceptable under the current union labor contract. The vacation proposal is more vague – the contract allows the employer to make “reasonable modifications to the vacation schedule.”

Ron Harrell, business representative for IAM Lodge 160, was contacted regarding the concerns of city employees but wouldn’t speak specifically on labor issues involving the city and staff. Harrell, who liasons with a number of businesses, says he anticipates reduced-scheduling measures to increase as organizations look to save money in the current financial climate.

“It is not something we like to see,” Harrell said in regard to the city’s appeal for voluntary man-hour reductions. “But, generally speaking, labor relations have these ups and downs.”

According to Dombroski, one city employee has come forward so far seeking reduced hours.

It is up to the director of a particular department to make the final decision regarding individual staff members’ reduced hours. Dombroski also noted that while some departments are seeing a work decrease, others are seeing a work increase, and staff would have to be shuffled to meet the demand accordingly.

The 2009 preliminary budget, released yesterday, recommended the removal of 5.5 FTE positions in the coming year. Targeted staff levels for 2009 would be 140.7, down from the council-approved 152. Dombroski said all staff reductions would come from attrition; layoffs are not being considered. The current labor contract for city staff will expire on Jan. 1, 2011.

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