Overtime gets a new old look

Published on: 1/24/2012

Greenfield - New overtime rules limiting city employee overtime only to work done beyond 40 hours in a week and dropping overtime premiums for work on holidays and weekends were scrapped just 17 days after they went into effect Jan. 1.

The Greenfield Common Council last week opted to revert to most of the old rules, which granted overtime after eight hours in one work day, counting vacation and personal time as hours worked. Workers will earn time-and-a-half pay for any hours beyond eight in a day and weekends and double-time on holidays.

However, double-time on Sundays, offered under the old rules, was not restored.

DPW argument for old rules

The Finance and Human Resources Committee, which recommended going back to most of the old rules, agreed with Daniel Ewert, public works superintendent, who said the new more restrictive rules do more harm than good when it comes to the Department of Public Works.

Ewert pleaded with the committee to restore at least some of the old overtime rules to show DPW workers who are called on to meet all kinds of emergencies that rules are not being implemented just because the city can.

Most of the overtime is paid for battling snowstorms, Ewert said, and overtime itself is less than 8 percent of the DPW payroll.

Asked if the DPW tries to reduce overtime by sending employees home to rest when a snowstorm is predicted, Ewert told the Finance and Human Resources Committee that the policy is to keep employees working so that the department doesn't fall behind on its many other tasks.

Buying the argument

To treat other departments fairly, the council approved going back to the old rules for all other departments, also.

Alderwoman Shirley Saryan, chairwoman of the Finance and Human Resources Committee, said she supported going back to the old rules for several reasons.

'The city of Greenfield is charged with dealing with emergency situations and busy times using a skeletal staff,' she said.

Going back to the more lenient overtime rules is fair, she said, because it promotes staff morale and is financially sound.

'I trust department managers to decide when overtime is absolutely necessary,' Saryan said.

Alderman Thomas Pietrowski, also a committee member, said of the rules that started Jan. 1: 'It was kind of unfair; the DPW goes out all sorts of hours.'

More than that, from his viewpoint, Pietrowski said DPW workers' weeks can get interrupted so that they would get no overtime, under the new rules.

The city dropped the old overtime rules in favor of overtime rules in the Fair Labor Standards Act starting Jan. 1 because the city was scraping for every dime in a tight budget. That budget was impacted by the struggling economy in general and specifically changes in state law that impacted state aid last year, said Ben Granberg, human resources director.