Overtime is in overdrive in Vallejo driving wages over the edge as city workers clock huge hours and huge additional pay.
By Robert Schussel, Ph.D
To provide an update to prior VIB reports about the cost of overtime being generated by the various departments within the City of Vallejo.
In 2012 $4,046,097 was spent on overtime. 85.6% ($3,463,429) of the overtime was generated by public safety (includes Police Department Communication Operators and Supervisors).
For 2013 overtime increased to $5,654,633 which is a 39.8% increase over 2012.
The percentage spent on Public Safety overtime in 2013 increased to 89.2% from 85.6% in 2012.
1) Individuals who were given Employment Separation Payouts and had relatively small base pay in 2013 were eliminated from the overtime analyses. These individuals had retired or left employment with the City and had only worked part of the year. In most instances the amount of overtime they worked was minimal. Twenty one (21) of these individuals had worked in the Police Department.
2) The median (50th percentile) rather than the average is reported for overtime pay as the overtime distributions were highly skewed. For VPOA the median value was significantly lower than the average value.
3) The City of Vallejo verified that the highest overtime wages were correct.
1) The total amount of money spent on overtime in 2013 ($5,654,633) was 39% higher than for 2012 ($4,046,097).
2) Public Safety (including IBEW Communication Supervisors &Operators) consumed 89% of the TOTAL monies spent on overtime in 2013, up from 86% in 2012.
3) VPOA members now earn 58% of the TOTAL overtime budget. One of the reasons for the increase was the large number of VPOA members resigning (and leaving early) or retiring in 2013 – (21 employees). Most (9) of the replacement new hires only worked part of the year.
4) 2013 overtime costs increased 51% for VPOA (Police) members and 44% for IAFF (Fire) members.
5) The average and median amount of overtime pay earned by Police Officers (who had worked most of the year) was more than double the amount earned by members in the other bargaining groups. Public Safety (VPOA, IAFF and Communications Operators and Supervisors) accounted for 89% of all of the OT wages paid out.
6) Among IBEW members the amount of overtime earned by the 20 individuals who were employed in the Water Treatment Plant or as Communication Specialists was 46.8% of the entire amount of OT earned by IBEW members.
7) 2013 overtime wages for VPOA members is equivalent to at least 15 full time Police Officers.
Average/Median Overtime wages earned by employees who worked most of the 2013
|# Employed Most of yr.||AVERAGE amount OT||\MEDIAN|
176 with OT
|IBEW Communications and Water Treatment||
8) In 2013 sixty employees (60) earned $30,000 or more in overtime wages. This is a 43% increase from 2012. Seventy three percent (73%) were members of VPOA. The overtime ranged from 21% to 181% of their Base Wage. One Police Corporal worked about 2,500 hours of overtime which is equivalent to working an extra 48 hours per week for the entire year (52 weeks). See below:
Note: Most members of IAFF work 56 hour weeks (two 24 hour shifts and 8 additional hours). To make it easier to compare the number of hours and pay for Overtime worked by an IAFF member, the OT was converted to the equivalent of a 40 hour work week. For example if a fire fighter worked 28 hours of Overtime it was converted to 20 hours of a 40 hour week–( 40/56= (.714) times 28 hours=20 hours) .
With the large number of Police Officers leaving the City of Vallejo it was not unexpected that the amount of overtime (51% increase) would increase in the Police Department. What is surprising is that there was also a 41% increase in overtime for 2013 in the Fire Department. No mention of the significant increases in overtime was made public by the City Manager nor does it appear that there was much of an attempt being made to try to control the large increases in overtime being earned by some employees. Even members of City Council do not appear to be aware of the large increases in OT.
What I find just as troubling is the extremely high amount of overtime worked by some individuals each of the past three (3) years. There are too many Public Safety employees who are trying to get as much overtime as possible despite potential issues involved with fatigue etc. About 24% (82/348) of all of the employees with overtime had overtime pay that was 25% or more of their base salary. According to a City Official, significant overtime issues exist if an employee’s overtime is 25% or more of their base salary. With the large amount of overtime that has been occurring the question becomes: Is there any abuse or fraud?
Finally, despite the rhetoric that he/she (who worked excessive OT) is a good police officer/fire fighter etc. studies on working long hours find that efficiency declines and accident proneness increases significantly. It’s time to stop employees from being allowed to work excessive amounts of overtime for their safety and that of the public.
There will always be a need for some overtime in Public Safety due to emergency situations, required court appearances, training, illness etc.
However it’s time that the City Manager and the Police and Fire Chiefs do a better job of distributing overtime among their staff. These department heads are putting their employees and the public at risk.
Below are suggested steps to be taken by the City Manager.
1) The City Manager should make a report to City Council and the public detailing the overtime in 2013 and discussing what is occurring with overtime in 2014 and why. Consideration should be given to the steps being taken to reduce overtime as well as how the City Manager will limit excessive overtime being earned by some employees.
2) The City Manager should give regular updates on overtime use etc. until the overtime problems are under control. The updates should include the long term steps being taken to reduce overtime including hiring new employees.
3)No employee should earn per month overtime pay that is greater than 25% of their base salary. Each month the Fire and Police Chief should provide the City Manager with a list of all employees who accrue more than 25% of their base wage in OT and the reason why.
4) As part of contract provisions, a reasonable limit should be placed on employee overtime. Current contracts do nothing to limit the employees’ ability to work the system and push overtime beyond all sensible limits. Massive overtime that ignores employee and public safety, as illustrated above are not sensible.
5) Scenarios that allow employees to game the system need to come to a stop. One common example of employees padding overtime would work as follows:
Currently employee A can call in sick and employee B fills in with overtime (at 1.5 times base pay). Then employee B calls in sick and employee A fills in and gets overtime. Thus, for the week each employee earned 6.5 days of wages (30% more pay), but each only had to work 5 days. In other words, by using up sick days, employees gain 30% more pay in the process.
The employee contracts should be revised so that all employees except Fire Fighters (@ 56 hours per week base) must work 40 hours at regular pay within a week before they can start to collect overtime pay. Sick leave or vacation pay should not count towards the 40 hour requirement. Fire fighters should be required to work 10 shifts at normal pay in the current month before they are eligible for overtime.
Bottom line: Does it best serve the interests of the public to have safety workers, such as firemen/paramedics and police officers working as much as 60- 80 hours per week on a constant basis? Can these employees really perform their demanding jobs at a high level for so many hours without becoming a risk to themselves and the public? Long standing and accepted industry studies clearly indicate that these practices are highly inadvisable.
NEXT UP –OTHER WAGES AND SEPARATION PAY