Plan to cut sicks days for public employees moves step closer

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Caption
Bill would cut public employee sick days

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Bill would cut sick time for city, county, school and college employees across Ohio.

UPDATE: This bill was referred to the Ohio House State and Local Government Committee on Sept. 12, according to legislative records. No hearing dates for this bill are currently listed on the committee's web page. This story will be updated when more information is available.

ORIGINAL STORY:

City, county, school and college employees across Ohio could receive less annual sick leave under a bill introduced yesterday in the Ohio General Assembly.

The bill reduces the number of sick days given to public employees to 10. This is already the maximum for state employees, but many local government employees get up to 15 days of sick leave a year.

“We’re aligning what state workers get and local government,” said Derek Merrin, R-Monclova Twp., who sponsored the bill.

RELATED: Search government payroll with our I-Team Payroll Project

He called the 15-day limit for local government “an excessive state mandate that drives up cost for local governments.”

“It’s way out of line with private sector standards and needs to be reduced,” he said. “I’m fighting for the average taxpayer that is footing the bill for this.”

Co-sponsors of the bill include local Reps. Candice Keller, R-Middletown; and Paul Zeltwanger, R-Mason.

Public employee unions criticize the proposal as an attempt to undermine collective bargaining.

“We have relationships we built up, we know the communities, the know the employees, the administration knows its workers. It’s something best left for people to agree on in their own communities,” said Joe Weidner, spokesman for Ohio AFSCME Council 8, which represents 40,000 mostly-public-sector union workers in Ohio.

“To come in and say one size fits all, that’s not an appropriate solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.”

Christopher Mabe, president of the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, which represents state and local employees across Ohio, said sick leave is part of the overall compensation package negotiated between governments and their employees, and sometimes employees will give up pay in exchange for more sick days.

He sees the bill as a “shot across the bow” to collective bargaining.

“I thought we already hashed this out at ballot a few years back,” he said, referring to the failed Senate Bill 5 effort to limit collective bargaining by public employees.

Merrin said limiting annual sick leave could also reduce the amount of sick leave public employees cash out every year and at the end of their careers.

An I-Team investigation this year found the ability to cash out unused sick and vacation leave is a rare perk in the private sector, though local governments are on the hook for tens of millions of dollars worth of these payments.

SPECIAL REPORT: Taxpayers on hook for $444M in unused state worker leave

“The reason there’s a cash-out is they are being provided an excessive number of sick days,” Merrin said.

Merrin said he used to be mayor of the city of Waterville, near Toledo, and said excessive sick leave was an expensive mandate.

David Hicks, city manager of Moraine — slightly larger than Waterville — said he would rather state lawmakers left employee compensation up to local governments.

“If he wants to be in local government, why doesn’t he go back and run for mayor of the community he was at,” he said.

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