Council OKs 4-Day Workweek for Municipal Building
Starting June 28, the municipal building will have extended hours of operation Monday through Thursday and be closed on Fridays.
If you've historically chosen to conduct municipal business on Fridays, it might be time to pick a new day -- at least for the summer.
In less than a month, the borough will roll out an experimental plan that puts the municipal building and its employees on a four-day work schedule for the 10-week period from June 28 through Sept. 5.
During that time, the building will open a half-hour earlier and close an hour later Monday through Thursday -- from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. -- and be closed entirely (except for the police department) on Friday.
Borough manager Tom Metzler said the change is being made in an attempt to eliminate built-in employee overtime and comp time that is accrued when municipal building employees routinely work evening hours.
Under the four-day plan, the borough will introduce flexible employee scheduling, so that employees with regular evening duties can start and end work later without accruing overtime.
“We have a lot of jobs in this borough that require work to be done on odd hours,” he said. “And there’s savings to be made by having people work those hours that we need them. You start seeing repetitive hours it makes sense to rework your schedules.”
As it was originally proposed, the four-day workweek was slated to only extend the work day and include one "late day" on Wednesday to coincide with weekly municipal court sessions - a major overtime generator. That idea was dropped, however, after discussions with department heads and employees revealed that residents are more likely to stop by early in the morning than late in the evening, and thus starting the day earlier would likely accomodate more residents.
"Over the years we’ve tried to have open late nights and people don’t come," borough clerk Joanne Kwasniewski explained. "The reason that I suggested [opening earlier] is because every day I get here about 8, as does Tom, and there’s always people waiting."
While several council members initially expressed concern that an 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. work day would actually prohibit commuters from coming either before or after work, they ultimately consented to move forward with a trial run.
"My concern is the residents having their needs met," councilwoman Lisa Swain said. "So if you are seeing the greatest number of residents coming at 8 o’clock then maybe there is merit to moving it earlier."
Deputy Mayor Ed Trawinski said he'd defer to the experience of municipal building employees and support the time switch on a trial basis.
"If we get a lot of complaints about people who say 'I can’t make it during those hours and the fact that you’re closed on Fridays is a problem,' we’ll revisit it the next time we structure it," he said. "Let’s take it through a season and give it a shot."
The four-day workweek is not expected to be permanent.
Rather, it represents a giveback to employees for their willingness to accept working a flexible schedule that should significantly reduce or eliminate their overtime.
“Take something, give something,” Metzler said. “We are effectively asking our employees, once again, to give something up -- it’s called overtime. So this is a mutual effort. You be flexible with your hours, we’ll let you be home on Fridays during the summer.”
If the borough’s proposed flexible scheduling trial run is successful, Metzler said he would negotiate expanding flexible hours to all borough employees when he begins contract negotiations with his bargaining units in a couple months.
As part of the upcoming negotiations, Metzler said it's imperative to get creative with the borough's limited revenue and reward employees who haven't had a raise in years.
"What I’m trying to do is shift some of that money that we’re seeing in overtime into the salary and wage as we move forward," he said. "So, hypothetically an employee who’s working 60 hours a week instead of 40 hours a week and has come to depend on that overtime because it’s built in, they’ll be working less hours but still see an increase in their salary."
Metzler said the annual amount in overtime -- including police overtime -- paid to borough employess was about $1.3 million.