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Use-it-or-lose-it provision necessary for public sector

Published: Tue, March 1, 2011 @ 12:00 a.m.

While Republicans in state gov- ernment and Ohio’s public employees remain locked in a bitter battle over collective bargaining, there’s a way for all Ohioans to join in: The GOP majority in the General Assembly should amend the bill now before the Senate to include the elimination of accrued vacation and sick days.

The amendment would apply to public entities at every level. The Ohio Revised Code supersedes local laws.

The use-it-or-lose-it provision would bring public employees in line with those in the private sector. The result: An end to the ridiculously high severance payments that individuals on government payrolls pocket on their way to tapping their ridiculously high taxpayer-supported pensions and health-care plans.

Consider this blood curdling fact: In the last seven months, three area public employees walked away with $100,000-plus severance packages.

It began with Dr. David Sweet, the former president of Youngstown State University, who left with $100,596.

The sweet deal for the former YSU president reflected the 400 hours of sick leave he said he did not take during his 10-year tenure, and the 267.57 hours of unused vacation time. The hourly rate used to calculate his severance was $150.69.

Just as the shock of that separation payment was wearing off, taxpayers were treated to the ultimate — it seemed at the time — in insult-to-injury: Dr. Wendy Webb, former superintendent of the Youngstown City School District, pocketed $111,153. The payment was for 285 days of sick leave she said she did not take, 56 personal days and 72 vacation days she had piled up over her public career of more than 30 years.

The insult lies in the fact that during her six-plus years as superintendent of Youngstown schools, the district was in state-mandated fiscal and academic emergency. It is the worst school district in Ohio.

Yet, Webb was rewarded for her performance — as spelled out in the contract negotiated with the board of education. That’s an injury to the taxpayers.

And now comes Dr. Kathryn Hellweg, former superintendent of Warren city schools.

Paid not to work

When Hellweg left her job Monday after about six years, she was given a $101,000 separation check. If that isn’t enough for you, private sector taxpayers, to scream, “We’re mad as hell as won’t take it anymore,” consider this indignity:

Hellweg’s contract was to expire in July, which means she walked away with the six-figure check for not working.

Why would the board of education agree to reward her resignation and retirement? Why not fire her if members believed she was not doing her job, so she would have been forced to defend her tenure?

Or, if Hellweg’s performance as superintendent did not justify getting rid of her immediately, why not insist that she serve out her contract?

The board shelled out $55,000 to buy out the last five months of her contract, and gave her another $46,000 in separation pay and unused vacation.

Enough’s enough.

We call on the Republican majority in the Ohio House and Senate and Republican Gov. John Kasich to strike a blow for private sector taxpayers by imposing a “use-it-or-lose-it” provision for annual vacation and sick time for all public employees.


1mcluvin(72 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

First off let me say that I support SB5. I beilieve that the removal of binding arbitration from certain aspects of contract negotions is long overdue. Keep in mind, the bill does not eliminate the act of collective bargining. Does it even the playing field in contact negotiations? Sure, but management in the public sector has been at a disadvantage for years. Being involved in negotiations myself I can tell you how this works. Union leaders will throw the younger members to the wolves for the money, meaning they know the arbitrators will side with them regardless of the available funds and if there are layoffs as a result so what, the younger members get laid offf and the senior members suck up the OT in their absence. Now someone in a union tell me that this isn't true. .......All that being said this article above is completely ridiculous. They are listing the severances of top tier positions and passing them off as common place as if they are a random sampling of all severances. Compare the ones listed above with the severances of CEOs of even a moderately sized corporation. These seem like a bargain. That is a fair comparison of the public and private sector. All of the scapegoats listed above have PhDs for gods sake. One last thing on SB 5 We all know Hagan's and Schivoni's agenda. Hagan has been tied heavily to unions for years, that is no secret, and Schivoni is an attorney that negotiates contracts for bargaining units. All of the other politicians around here see the grandstanding that they are missing out on and are deciding to jump on board. Problem, the oposition represents a small sampling of the voting populous. The rest are uneducated at best about this bill. (So are the local politicians for that matter) Unions are only out for themselves down to the individuals also. But did you know that part of SB 5 removes the mandate that union members in the public sector pay union dues? Wake up people. Unions have grown out of control and must be reigned in, note I did not say eliminated. BTW I know there are a lot of typos. I do not have my contacts in yet. Focus on the content not the spelling.

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2300(573 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

JessieDavid, it's not as clear as you try to make it.

The truth is that there is no truly private industry, especially when we're talking any company with more than a few employees. Every major industry is subsidized by the government, every single one. Whether it's Boeing getting a 35 billion dollar contract from the Airforce, or farmers growing corn, or energy companies. The all receive billions of dollars of tax-payer subsidies. Even the smaller companies get paid by the government to offer health insurance to their workers.

Whenever you see a CEO get a golden parachute, remember that that company also received millions that year in government handouts. The only difference between them and a public employee is that most people don't understand how the funding behind the private industry firm works, yet the public one is 100% transparent.

Also, like was mentioned above, picking 3 administrators that aren't even in the teacher's union, and use them as examples is farcical. You use them as evidence, but then don't realize that it will be people like them deciding on teacher pay in their district if this all passes. Sounds like a system in which corruption will decide how much people make in most of the school districts.

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3PHISHIE(105 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

Did anyone ever verify that there is a $8Billion Dollar State of Ohio deficit??You know how inept politicians are!!! Perhaps there is a deficit but not $8billion. Did anyone verify the deficit or is the public taking the word of politicians???? LET ME KNOW

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4rico13(19 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

we the people pay for it whether it is public or private. auto, oil, the list goes on. we make up the difference for ceo's that walk away with millions for bad performance.

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5ohiolover(7 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

We need to look at other reasons as to why our state is in debt.
Then, to use these 3 examples is just absurd.
I know! Let's just ruin it for all public employees!

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6walter_sobchak(2728 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

Excellent editorial. It is time for the unions to conform to private sector practices of lumping vacation, sick and personal days to "paid time off" days.

Your Boeing analogy is flawed. This would not be a subsidy but a contract for a good or service. And, the selection of these administrators is not farcical but instructive. These administrators were, most likely, once members of the union before they went into management. As is typical, when the "management" negotiates a contract with the union, it is usually extended to administration. Otherwise, the union workers make more and the administrators would merely go back to working under the union as a teacher.

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7300(573 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

Walter, my analogy isn't flawed because this has been the way that the US has funded Boeing for decades. The reason why it's labeled as a purchase is because a direct subsidy will trigger a case in the WTO brought on by Airbus.

It's a subsidy at the end of the day. It's not just my take on it, ask any economist if the US subsidizes Boeing, and you'll get the same answer.

As for the administrators, they were all once teachers, true. But that could have been decades ago, and in either case, they aren't anymore in the union. This bill puts them in charge of setting wages (with the school board), and without a union friends of the administration would be unfair advantage over those who aren't so chummy with them. I did a study on a school for increasing management efficacy. Among my observations was that staff who most often visited with administration for informal conversation were also much more likely not to be of the better teachers. I can't say anything more since I don't own the rights to the study, but without a union it's not hard to see who will the more likely to receive raises.

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8walter_sobchak(2728 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

We will disagree about the specifics of Boeing. I'm also not saying that teachers shouldn't necessarily be organized. But, every teacher knows that the current setup of teacher unions protects the teachers that are less than competent. A great teacher that can inspire students is worth their weight in gold and they should be compensated justly. School boards could due with much less administration. Get rid of all federal programs and their worthless directors with the PHD's. (Start with the free meals programs! Schools are for eeducation, they're not a restaurant.)

My problem is that the public worker unions have the upper hand in negotiations because whatever the union workers get, the management will also get similar increases. These workers, directly or indirectly, get to choose the person the will be negotiating with. I remember in Canfield when the teachers petitioned the school board to hire Zambrini as superintendent. At that point, he would have been the last person I would have selected.

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9saddad(655 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

Wouldnt responsible reporting require that the writer point out that they do not receive 100 cents on the dollar? So to advocate that nothing be paid rather than half being paid would mean that toward the end--the employer would be trying to deal with alot of absentees. But a real discussion of the real facts--isnt what the Vindy seems to want.

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10saddad(655 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

Is this more from Generalisimo Franko? My guess is that the real problem for the Vindy writers is that the Vindy pay stinks.

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11saddad(655 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

Lap dogs

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12apollo(1227 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

Using one company or a handful of companies as justification for accumulating sick and vacation time is ludicrous.

It's a ridiculous benefit that is bankrupting the public sector.

And if you think that instead of accumulating them you can use them instead when you aren't sick, that just goes to show the mentality of the public worker.

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13RustOnMyBelt(172 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

Ok, but here is how I have seen things really work out having been in both private and public sectors, when an employee has only a couple (2 or 3) available sick days and must use them or loose them they more often than not will come to work sick. Its not worth it to stay home, make a doctor appointment, sit in a waiting room just to be given a piece of paper that proves you are honest and were, indeed,sick, Its just not worth the trouble when you really are sick. Instead, they go to work with an arsenal of over-the-counter remedies and, of course, spreading whatever they have to everyone at work (employees, supervisors,students,cutomers). In the public sector I have only seen available sick days used as needed. It helps that someone doesn't come to the workplace to spread their illness. I am sure it gets abused by a minority, but it doesn't seem to be the rule. Employees are actually MORE productive and under less stress as work knowing that they have days to use in needed.Also, I have worked where an employee's sick days can be put into a "bank" to be used help someone dealing with serious problems,surgery, cancer,etc., that extend beyond what days they have available and to help them financially until they are released to return to work.I do believe that a person ought to be able to accumulate sick days as a personal insurance in case some tragedy does befall them, but agree that "cashing" them in at some later date does seem a bit much. Just because public sector jobs have put the squeeze on their employees due to the huge amount of job-seekers out there, I feel that someone ought to be holding up the bar as an example of how workers in America ( people) should be treated. As people and not commodity. They are not a human "resource" they are persons as in "personnel".

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14retiredandtired(8 comments)posted 5 years, 4 months ago

All this babbling is fine and dandy, I still say Union members should take a stand and boycott all goods and services which are provided by non union businesses. Let's see how well they fair. Remember, we all pay for things and part of the cost is to pay for benefits and wages of the employee. When your child is sitting in a classroom filled with 40 kids and not learning anything, then remember you supported senate bill 5. Everyone needs to realize that this bill will affect them. Also, expect more traffic tickets and don't complain when you get one, because Law Enforcement will be writing them to merit their pay, as spoken by Kasich himself. You know the guy who called the Officer an idiot for writing him a ticket. In addition, don't expect the politicians family members to be cited or charged for crimes because the Officers will be at their will and no one wants to lose their job. You want corrupt well, things are gonna get UGLY!

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15spinman(70 comments)posted 5 years, 4 months ago

Why should you be able to cash in your sick days. Sick days are just that. Sick days. Three examples my butt, the majority of teachers and administrators in the school systems have banked a ton of sick time, not to mention vacation.days.Why does a teacher/administrator need to receive vacation days. These days are accumulated at lower wages and cashed out at their highest earning wages. USE IT OR LOSE IT !!!!!

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16JME(802 comments)posted 5 years, 4 months ago


Even a police officer made a comment on The Dispatch following this story: "we are always idiots when we write a ticket for anyone, it's nothing new so get over it"

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