Home Contra Costa County Yes, Public Employees Get Sick Time, So What?

Yes, Public Employees Get Sick Time, So What?

by ECT

The Contra Costa Times caused quite the whirlwind yesterday with multiple articles that raised awareness towards Bay Area Public Officials taking advantage of unused sick time clauses. My simple response to this hoopla is “so what, they earned it” while it was negotiated in contracts. This is not the employees fault, it’s the Politician’s fault who included the benefits.

What was also not mentioned was there is a completely separate governing board responsible for this which is the Contra Costa Pension Board—its their own government board who decided to include sick time in final pension costs.

The two articles, Bay Area public officials break bank with unused sick time and 2,138 hours of unused sick time boosts pension for Contra Costa sewer worker

This whole thing can be basically ignored as nothing more than phony propaganda to push pension reform and do away with collective bargaining because of four key reasons:

  1. All agencies accrue benefits at different rates meaning this list is pointless to combine it all into one giant list. You are basically comparing apples to oranges. The Times completely ignores how agencies/ departments accrue their benefits.More to the point, one occurs hours in years 1 and 2, uses sick time in year 3, worked year 4-7 with no sick time, then goes to years 8-9-10 and uses some sick time. How does the County then decide when and where his sick time is used? This is no different than private sector where companies either have a use it or lose it clause or cap it like my company did at 320-total hours.
  2. Mike McGill was protected by the CC Times as his name was not used in an article specific to Central Contra Costa Sanitary District—he is a board member. If you recall, Mr. McGill’s the President of the Contra Costa Taxpayer Association who has been attacking firefighter pensions and even have a pension list. This is a clear example of the “do as I say, not as I do” approach to governing. What is apparently okay for Sanitary is not okay for public safety.  By the way, Mr. McGill’s own District apparently is the poster child for pension spiking—why hasn’t CoCo Tax gone after the agency he is a board member of?As for engineer Alan Grieb and his 2,138 hours of unused sick time, good for him! It was earned and he played by the rules. He is 100% right in his statements and for the Times to single him out and polarize him, I believe that is wrong! Even if they capped him at 320-hrs, they still are paying out his sick time each year anyway, so it’s a matter of a one-time payment or a little is paid into each paycheck as its accrued.Maybe it’s time Mr. McGill resign from the Taxpayers Association because this is very hypocritical behavior and the Times really should stop trying to protect their favorite group to quote from.
  3. The attack on firefighters continues. Of course firefighters pay the most, CONFIRE has no extra personnel to staff. Other agencies like Pinole have no overtime while Rodeo guys couldn’t go home. I urge you to do the math. Sick leave is actually a money saver for fire services, not an abuse.I’ll break this down as simple as possible. Sick time is paid at cost, by not using sick time; the agency does not have to pay a firefighter time and a half to cover a shift.  Using common sense, firefighters and other public safety cannot control when they are sick or injured, they need it available because their injuries are more severe than say someone in an office who gets a bad paper cut.Back to Item 1, the accrual is important.  Firefighters typically get lowest level of sick leave per month (12-hrs). It takes two months to get one-day off.  In a whole year, you get just six-days off because of 24-hr shifts. If you don’t take that time, you are saving the department money. If you take off, they have to cover someone with time and a half as well as sick leave.
  4. Paying for the past accusation. How is this different than private sector companies? Year 1 you begin accruing time. Year 5, you are at a higher rate. It’s no different. This is over dramatized by the Times. Essentially, this is paying more for experience and more responsibility. as with any job, the longer you are there, you get more pay and more responsibility.

Here is a response from the Contra Costa County Deputy Sheriffs Association.

Contra Costa County Deputy Sheriffs Association

It is very important for people to understand how government budgets and pensions work, and how they are financed. Despite is length, this article does very little to help the objective reader reach an informed opinion. Here is a different perspective, and something to consider before jumping to conclusions based on half truths. Like the public sector, employee pay and benefits, which include vacation, sick leave, and comp time, are figured into total annual payroll. When an employee does not use one of the accrued, and earned benefits, the employer realizes a savings. Employees earn the benefits at their then normal rate of pay (straight time). However, in many cases, when an employee calls in sick, uses comp time, or takes vacation, another employee must replace that worker, and often does so on overtime (time and one half). This cost is also figured into the budgets of business and local governments. In other words, it costs the employer more money in overtime to replace a worker who uses their accrued and earned benefit. Sadly, the writers of this article have painted an ugly picture for the reader, and ignored the real issue. The monies paid out were earned. The employees worked for that money but chose to take the compensation at a later time. True, in some cases, at a higher rate of pay than when they were earned. However, lets not forget the employer also benefited and banked the savings. I would like to believe anyone reading this who has a job which earns benefits feels they should be compensated for those benefits. One should not loose the financial value of the benefit simply because they did not use it.

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Survey on Sick Leave

Three out of four study respondents consider paid sick days a basic workers’ right, and an equal amount think employers should be required to provide the benefit, but the reality is that about one in three working Americans doesn’t have paid sick leave, and nearly one in six people lost their job for taking time off to deal with a personal or family illness.

“Americans overwhelmingly view paid sick days as a basic labor standard,” says Tom W. Smith, a Senior Fellow at the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago and director of the study, “Paid Sick Days: Attitudes and Experiences.”

“What was so striking about the findings was that a strong majority of people across in every racial group, every income level, every age group, every part of the country, and both political parties see paid sick days as a basic worker right, just like being paid a decent wage,” says Deborah Leff, president of the Public Welfare Foundation.

“We know that more than 40 million working Americans do not get even one paid sick day. And we can see from this survey that not having paid sick days drives up the costs of health care and means that more people go to work sick, creating public health risks for everyone,” she adds.

Those surveyed favored seven sick days per year for employees, with part-time workers earning sick days proportionate to their time working.

Among other findings from the survey:

  • 55 percent of those without paid sick day coverage have gone to work with a contagious disease such as the flu, compared to 37 percent of those with paid sick days.
  • 20 percent of those without paid sick day coverage used the emergency rooms of hospitals because they couldn’t take time off, compared to 10 percent of the covered population.
  • 24 percent of those without sick day coverage sent a sick child to school, compared to 14 percent with coverage.


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Julio-Antioch Aug 23, 2012 - 7:52 am

You are absolutely right. They are doing what was authorized in negotiations of a union contract. People like the Board of Supervisors are to blame. Too bad we cannot go after them for stupidity.

burkforoakley Aug 23, 2012 - 8:18 am

It’s not the BOS fault, its the Contra Costa Pension Board. By the way, what does the BOS have to do with the Central Contra Costa Sanitary District? It’s a special district.

Julio-Antioch Aug 23, 2012 - 8:33 am

Sorry, I was thinking in a much broader picture than you. All these union contracts that allowed this type of benefit are certainly legal for these guys to pad their pensions. We shouldn’t be mad at the employees laughing all the way to the bank. Anyone who was in a position to authorize these benefits, to include the BOS, should have stupid written all over their foreheads.

burkforoakley Aug 23, 2012 - 8:43 am

More to the point, Mike McGill is a special district who did not support another special district and called Measure S “Stupid” at the Democratic Central Committee Meeting!

JimSimmons42 Aug 23, 2012 - 9:56 am

Thank you Burk, you should call up Mike McGill and ask him to explain himself for his actions against firefighters but has remained silent on his own special district.

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