Longer Workweeks Not Likely For County Employees

January 20, 1991|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff writer

In this winter of budgetary discontent, Carroll officials have been looking for any way to save money.

But one method the state is using -- longer workweeks for state workers -- apparently is not a consideration for the county's 823 employees.

"While I think our commissioners are interested in doing whateverthey can to avoid layoffs, we haven't discussed (a longer workweek) at all yet," said Jimmie Saylor, the county's director of human resources.

Carroll's commissioners, the budget director and the union representing about 100 of the county workers agreed.

"We've looked at this idea to some extent, and we decided to close the building fortwo days," said Steven D. Powell, the county's management and budgetdirector. "Inherent in a longer workweek are a lot of problems."

One of the biggest of those is the loss of overtime income to the workers. Last year, of the county's $16.9 million payroll, $16.3 millionwas for regular time and $591,140 was for overtime.

For the nearly 50 percent of all county employees who work 37 hours a week, lengthening the workweek to 40 hours would mean a 10 percent drop in income, show figures furnished by the county's Finance Department.

All told, an extended workweek would eliminate most overtime, resulting in a savings to the county equal to the salaries of about 21 full-timeemployees, figures show. On the state level, such a move is expectedto save $30 million a year.

The average hourly rate for county employees is $13.72. Of the county employees, 367 work a 37 -hour week,340 work 40 hours and 18 work 32 hours. Some 98 county workers are part-time, putting in less than 30 hours a week.

"Extending the workweek seems to be the way the state is going," said Commissioner Julia W. Gouge. "If we really needed to, I don't see any reason why we can't ask our workers to work a 40-hour week. Two and a half hours certainly isn't going to hurt anyone."

Commissioner Vice President Elmer C. Lippy Jr. agrees. "Truthfully, I must confess that the idea really hasn't come up," he said. "Among our options, I would imagine that a longer workweek would not be too painful an option."

While thecommissioners seem to be amenable to the idea of extending the workweek, county employees are not particularly fond of such a proposal.

"We know there are budgetary problems, but there are other ways to save money," said Joseph H. Cook, director of field operations for the Maryland Classified Employees Association, who represents about 100county workers in an informal "confer-and-consent" role. "Lengthening the week poses problems for health care and child care, not to mention lowering the earning power of workers."

Carroll employees cannot be members of a collective-bargaining unit, but MCEA meets regularly with the commissioners to air grievances and state worker positions. The next meeting between them is Jan. 28.

"You just don't make longer hours and expect to make cuts there," Cook said. He advocated making workers more efficient, increasing cross-training and introducing flexible work schedules.

The MCEA and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees said last week that they would seek legislation to block Gov. William Donald Schaefer's extended workweek. Cook said his group would oppose such a move in Carroll, should the commissioners decide to go that route.

"At this point in time, the commissioners have not discussed this with us," Cook said. "It doesn't appear that they are moving in that direction any time soon."

Overtime is not a big consideration here, Carroll budget officials say, and accounts for less than 4 percent of the total county payroll. Since 1985, the county's payroll has totaled $72.1 million; overtime has accounted for about $2.6 million of that.

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