Sick-time buyback proposal takes backseat as contract negotiations continue

Posted: Apr. 23, 2014 10:52 am Updated: May. 8, 2014 10:15 am

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

Changes to sick-time buyback payments for city non-union employees is on hold until all union contracts are finalized.

The city's Personnel Committee tabled a proposal to eliminate the buyback program in February and has not brought it up again. The proposal was submitted along with a plan to eliminate the practice of giving police and fire administrators benefits equal to union employees.

The move was panned by both Quincy Police Chief Rob Copley and Fire Chief Joe Henning, who both said it would become difficult to hire future administrators for the departments.

Mayor Kyle Moore said the city is waiting to see the outcome of all union contracts before moving ahead. All contracts with unions have been ratified, except with the bargaining units representing the patrol officers and sergeants with the Quincy Police Department.

No changes to sick-time buyback have been approved in any of the new contracts, including the deal finalized this week for firefighters.

Employees hired before May 1, 2011, currently accrue one sick day per month. Once they earn 60 unused sick days, the city pays the employees for each additional unused day each calendar year, or up to 12 a year. When an employee retires or quits, they are paid for up to 60 unused sick days, with half of the money going to employees directly and half to their retirement accounts.

Non-union employees hired since May 1, 2011, are capped at 40 unused sick days when they retire or quit. They earn nine sick days per year, and buyback is paid out at half the employees' current salary.

The city paid $224,591 in sick-time buyback to 63 nonunion employees and $296,693 to 132 union employees in the current fiscal year, although that also includes payouts for employees who left city employment.

Moore said sick-time buyback rewards employes to come into work sick.

"Essentially what a sick-day buyback does is rewards people for showing up sick, but it is also unfair to our newer employees who might be doing a good job, because they don't have that sick-time buyback bank," he said. "So that is less money that we can give them to reward them for doing a good job."

Moore is proposing a merit-based bonus system to replace the sick-time buyback system. The city would provide a bonus based on performance evaluations given every year.

Moore said that allows the city to budget based on fiscal constraints.

"If we have a really bad year, we have to pay (sick-time buyback) regardless," he said. "We have no financial freedom when it comes from sick-time buyback."

Copley said he has not seen a proposal on the merit-based bonus plan, but was open to the idea.

"As long as it is done fairly and the same for everyone, I don't see any problem with doing something like that," he said.

Copley said the non-union benefits should be rolled back if union benefits are as well.

"You've got to have an incentive for someone to move up in rank, and when you're losing benefits to make that move, that's not conducive to people taking the promotions," he said.