Wellesley’s management staff got something of a Christmas bonus this week, as council gave them another perq by voting for an overtime policy that provides more time off.
After lengthy and in-depth discussion Dec, 22, council voted in favour of a time-in-lieu program for senior staff, with Coun. Herb Neher the lone – and vocal – dissenter.
Neher argued vehemently against the policy that provides time off in lieu of overtime worked, and made his disagreement very clear, requesting a recorded vote once the motion was put on the table.
Township CAO Rik Louwagie presented the personnel policy to council, suggesting that it would allow one day off per month for senior staff in lieu of overtime hours worked while undertaking township business.
Louwagie has been keeping track of the hours worked by senior staff since May 1 of this year, and found that staff worked an average of 20.13 days of overtime in the past eight months.
Neher questioned the need for such a policy, saying that overtime was part of the job and staff knew what they signed up for when they were hired.
“With all due respect to senior staff, I know that everybody works hard and you get paid for working hard, but I think that we have to be very careful here,” he argued. “We are injecting something that is a condition of employment. When you are hired in a senior capacity in any corporation, the expectation is there and it is part of your salary, most often, that you work a certain amount of overtime. I am totally opposed to a blanket thing giving every senior staff member … vacation on the premise that they are going to work [a certain amount of] overtime per year. I definitely cannot support that. If this was part of the job, their salary probably wouldn’t be as high.”
Mayor Joe Nowak clarified with Neher that it wasn’t a blanket policy and that all days were recorded on a time sheet. Louwagie confirmed that the days in lieu were noted, and it was just a matter of putting the policy on paper. As CAO, he has discretionary powers to determine if a day off in lieu was warranted.
“I personally approve each one of them. It goes by the employee’s workload,” he said, mentioning that it wasn’t an hour-for-hour policy. “If they work 25 hours or 30 hours of overtime in a month, they are only eligible for one day in lieu. I get a report every month as to what they have worked and if they haven’t worked, I would have the discretionary power to say they haven’t earned a day that month.”
Neher still had some reservations about the policy and whether it was necessary to put down on paper.
“Senior management knows how to deal with their employees,” he said, directing his next comments at Louwagie. “As the CAO, you know what your people are working and not working. You deal with them the way you want, as opposed to throwing this into an actual policy. I am not too sure why we are doing this. I don’t have a problem as the CAO for you to say, ‘Brad, you had to do this for a day, and next time you need the time off, I am going to give it to you. ‘”
Both Nowak and Coun. Peter van der Maas voiced their support of putting the regulations around overtime in writing, making it a township policy.
Van der Maas cited the benefits of an even playing field and flexibility for township employees.
“I like the idea that it is going to become policy because it is going to create transparency,” he said. “Everyone knows where he or she sits. In my experience, this seems to be a relatively common way to offer compromise and to deal with individual situations that come up.”
Still not convinced, Neher questioned senior staff about the need for the in lieu days at all.
“I have worked in senior management and if I need to take all this extra time off, there is something wrong with the way I am doing my work,” he said.
Louwagie demonstrated that the in lieu days were not lost, but more than made up for with the overtime hours worked at other times.
“Our tracking of our time over the last eight months has clearly shown that we are needed at work. That is why there are so many extra hours,” he said. “If we take a day off, it means we are working extra hours the next week or the previous week.”
After spending time discussing the topic with other rural mayors, Nowak found that having firm rules around overtime was common practice.
“I have had discussions with my regional counterparts and the rural mayors and it seems to be more common practice than not,” he shared. “They have a time-in-lieu program that I think is very simple, so it is not an unusual situation.”
The decision to adopt the policy was put up for a vote, and passed with Neher recorded as the sole vote against the motion.