Want 8 weeks off a year? Work for the city

DAILY NEWS FILE PHOTOS DC 33 chief Pete Matthews (center): "Sick leave is a right to everyone."
DAILY NEWS FILE PHOTOS DC 33 chief Pete Matthews (center): "Sick leave is a right to everyone."
Posted: February 07, 2014

HOW WOULD YOU like to work at a place where most employees take about eight weeks off every year?

Look no further than the city of Philadelphia, where the typical municipal worker gets almost 50 days of paid leave and uses an average 38 days per year - more than the average state or local government employee and far more than private-sector workers, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

"We have an inefficient system of delivering services, and this is one element of that," said Sam Katz, who chairs the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority fiscal-oversight board.

Most city workers get paid for 11 holidays, up to 15 sick days, two to three weeks of vacation and other days for funerals and administrative leave. Longtime employees can get up to five weeks of vacation and 20 sick days. Police officers get a day off for their birthdays.

Days off for nonuniformed workers are guaranteed through labor contracts negotiated long before Mayor Nutter's administration, which has failed to reach new deals with the city's white- and blue-collar unions.

"Leave time is always an area of focus" in cutting costs, Finance Director Rob Dubow said. "The thing you want to particularly look at is unscheduled leave. Sick leave is a particular focus."

Nutter is trying to change work rules so that employees cannot earn overtime pay during a week when they took paid sick leave and logged fewer than 40 hours of actual work. The change, they believe, will curb sick-leave abuse and save millions.

That effort is caught up in the administration's ongoing standoff with two municipal unions that have been working under expired contracts for four years.

Pete Matthews, president of the city's largest union, said workers shouldn't be punished for taking paid sick leave.

"Sick leave is a right to everyone," said Matthews, of the blue-collar American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees' District Council 33. "You're out sick, you get a note, you're legally off that day."

Matthews added that managing overtime is an administration responsibility that shouldn't be solved at the bargaining table.

Nutter spokesman Mark McDonald said sick leave, which makes up about a quarter of time taken off by city employees, was the only type of leave the administration is seeking to reduce.

Vacation days account for 54 percent of city workers' leave time, which is recorded in the Quarterly City Manager's Report.

Police officers and employees of the City Commissioners Office, which manages elections, use the most days off, paid and unpaid, sometimes taking 10 weeks off per year, according to recent reports. Professional employees like those in the Mayor's Office, the City Planning Commission and the District Attorney's Office take the least, usually around four to six weeks per year.

Private-sector employers typically allow about 30 days of paid leave for holidays, sick days and vacation, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Typical state and local government workers get about 40 days of paid leave and use somewhat less.

The bureau doesn't track precisely how many days are actually used for all types of leave. It's likely, however, that the city's workers take more days off than most public-sector employees since the days off they actually take is around the maximum days allowed for the average state and municipal employee.


On Twitter: @SeanWalshDN, @RuffTuffDH

Blog: ph.ly/PhillyClout

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