An end to the city’s furlough program is in sight, but residents still won’t be able to file building permits or check out books at the library on Fridays for several more months.
City bargaining groups agreed to furloughs four years ago, meaning the Finance Department, City Hall and other departments were only open to the public one Friday each month.
By Jan. 1, 2014, the city will cease all furloughs and return to being open every other Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. City offices are now open from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday.
Contracts were negotiated last year to set up the post-furlough transition.
But what does that mean for city employee paychecks?
“Their pay hasn’t changed,” said City Attorney Steve Schwabauer. “They’ve basically traded a furlough day without pay for coming back to work without pay.”
The money previously saved by taking a furlough day is now going to pay a full share of employee pensions. For sworn city employees, like police officers and firefighters, that’s 9 percent. For everyone else, it’s 7 percent.
Before this change, city employees did not contribute to their retirement.
On their former furlough days, city employees are simply working behind closed doors. Most furloughs ended on July 1, but the city’s operating hours won’t change for another few months because of two remaining groups: General Services (who work the front desks) and Maintenance and Operations.
City employees who work in those two groups won’t end their furlough agreements until Jan. 1, 2014.
“We can’t open up City Hall, the library, the rest of the buildings until we have them,” said Gualco.
Furloughs end at different times because each bargaining group negotiated for different furlough periods.
No bargaining group representative responded for comment on this story.
Gualco spoke highly of the way bargaining groups have handled the transition.
“We’ve had four years of concession and there hasn’t been one challenge to the contracts,” he said. “They’ve signed every agreement.”
Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at firstname.lastname@example.org.