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St. Petersburg considers 4-day work week for some employees

ST. PETERSBURG — The city needs to save money, and it is looking at its employees to help fill the budget gap.

In recent days, city administrators have been meeting to discuss shortening the work week of some full-time employees, as well as mandating unpaid furloughs.

These are among many options being discussed to help plug a $15 million to $20 million budget hole created by reduced property tax collections. The four-day work week, in which employees would work slightly longer hours and keep their full salaries, is a gentler option that offers the most potential for savings over time. Furloughs, which result in smaller annual paychecks, are a more aggressive measure.

"The budget-cut ideas that have been submitted include just about everything imaginable," said internal services administrator Mike Connors. Working employees for four 10-hour days a week would allow the city to shut down some facilities one day, saving operating costs.

Salary cuts are also on the table. Among other budget-trimming items: cutting back on travel and training, memberships and new equipment.

For both government and private organizations, considering a shortened work week as a cost-saving measure has become increasingly common. It is already being done in Spanish Fork City, Utah. Last year, researchers at Brigham Young University found that city employees there reported increased job satisfaction and better relations with the public.

Furloughs are also increasingly common. Just this week, the Hillsborough County Clerk of the Circuit Court ordered its employees to take three furlough days.

Of 3,300 St. Petersburg city employees, about 1,350 full-time workers, from environmental and finance to public works employees, are being considered for the shorter work week or unpaid furloughs. Police, fire and other emergency agencies, which by law must be staffed around the clock, are not being considered.

Some full-time city employees, such as stormwater, pavement and traffic operations, wastewater collection and sanitation, already work a four-day week, but those departments never shut down, said Gary Cornwell, the city's human resources director.

Any plan affecting employee workload would have to be hammered out with the Florida Public Services Union, a local branch of the Service Employees International Union, which represents most city workers.

A spokesman for the union could not be reached for comment. But Kevin Shaughnessy, a labor lawyer with the firm Baker Hostetler in Orlando, said the city would need to implement the changes carefully to avoid harming employee morale or incurring gender- or race-based lawsuits.

Researcher Will Gorham contributed to this report. Luis Perez can be reached at 727-892-2271 or lperez@sptimes.com.

St. Petersburg considers 4-day work week for some employees 03/31/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 31, 2009 6:22pm]
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