Labor Contracts at Center of Overtime Review

by Gabe Bullard on January 24, 2012

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer says city labor unions will have to accept changes to their contracts if the city is to cut overtime expenses.

According to a study the mayor commissioned in December, the city spends about $23 million a year on overtime, and $14 million is unplanned.

Fischer hopes to cut $1.3 million from that total soon, and triple that cut in coming years. Some overtime expenses are due to understaffing and employees doing more with less. And all overtime is approved by supervisors.

“I am not faulting any of our employees on these overtime issues,” says Fischer. “Nobody has done anything outside of our policies or that hasn’t been allowed or approved by management. You all are simply doing the work that needs to be done at the direction of your managers.”

Among the recommendations in the overtime study is a call for supervisors to better document and justify overtime. But, Fischer says union contracts count vacations and sick days as time worked, and that may need to change to save money. In addition to the report, Fischer released a list of city employees who earn more than 15 percent of their salaries in overtime.

Metro Councilman David James—who was once head of the city police union—doesn’t think the mayor is unfairly targeting labor, but the concessions will have to go both ways.

“The city has in those contracts things they want in there. The organizations have things in there that they want in there,” James says. “I think the city in its contract negotiations should seek to do the things it really wants and the unions should seek to do the things they really want and they’ll have a happy medium.”

James says some overtime in the police department is paid with federal grants, and he’ll have to look deeper at the study before weighing in on it. Anissa Brady, head of the local AFSCME union, says she’s also reviewing the study. She told WFPL she did not take issue with the names of high overtime earners being released because the information is already public.

Louisville is facing a $12 million shortfall over the next six months and a $20-$30 million shortfall in the next fiscal year. James says cutting overtime costs can save money, but it won’t be enough to balance the budget.

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