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Sick pay is an employee benefit; it shouldn’t become a cash cow



Published: Mon, October 3, 2011 @ 12:00 a.m.

We should be immune to it by now, we suppose.

But our sensibilities are still shocked every time we see a government entity cutting a five-figure check to a retiring public employee for unused sick time. And we suspect that the reaction of most taxpayers is even more dramatic, something close to blood-boiling.

We’ve been saying it for years, but it bears repeating: Sick leave is a benefit that not every employee has, but for those fortunate ones who do, it is for use if and when the employee is sick.

If they have such strong constitutions that they seldom or never need sick leave, they should thank God or their lucky stars or the forbearers who gave them good genes.

The city of Youngstown gives us the latest examples of healthy people reaping an unseemly financial bonanza by virtue of not using sick leave. But there have been ample examples of similar abuses from other political subdivisions and school districts over the years.

The city’s board of control approved last week a severance check of $65,539 for retired Police Chief Jimmy Hughes and $62,138 for Frank J. Rosa, who retired from the fire department as a battalion chief. During their respective years on the city’s safety forces, — 34 years for Hughes and 37 years for Rosa — each earned a respectable wage in their early years and rather handsome salaries as high-ranking officers.

And each will receive pensions for life that far exceed that of most working stiffs or middle managers in the private sector. We’re sure that they and all of their colleagues will argue that they earned every dollar in salary and pension benefits, and we’re not here to argue that point today.

What we are willing to say is that no one has earned a cash payment for unused sick time. No one earns a dime by not being sick.

Hughes cashed out 902 hours of unused sick time for $37,959. That’s an average of $42 an hour. Rosa cashed out 1,732 hours for $46,391. That’s an average of nearly $27 per hour.

Predictable defense

Invariably when this subject of unused sick time is raised, its defenders claim that the policy actually saves the city money because if it didn’t buy the time, the employees would use it up. And when police and fire departments cover for sick employees, the overtime cost can be astronomical.

That presumes two things:

1) After years of coming to work faithfully, the employee would be so unscrupulous as to call off sick when he was not, just to get that which he considered his.

2) If that happened, other city officials would not feel obliged to clamp down on such an abuse.

Ask most taxpayers what should be done with an employee who cheats or a supervisor who looks the other way, and the answer is likely to be the same: Fire him.

No one is indispensable, and if they are sick, they should see a doctor and rest. If they are well, they should give the city an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay.

And speaking of no one being indispensable, Hughes also amassed $15,655 for accumulated compensation time and $9,805 for unused vacation time. Rosa got $13,775 for unused vacation time.

Isn’t it time someone started telling city employees to use their vacation time, recharge their batteries and avoid getting rundown or sick? Oh, that’s right, some city employees never get sick.


Comments

1UnionForever(1470 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

Show your support for SB5 so that Governor Kasich knows to push for even more public sector pay and benefit reforms. What Chief Hughes walked away with in taxpayer monies is insane! This should never ever be allowed.

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2NoBS(1982 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

Ah, the usual rabble from the "I don't have MINE, so nobody else deserves THEIRS" crowd. How about if you clowns either get yourselves a job that offers sick leave - plenty of private sector jobs still have it - or quit whining about those who are lucky enough to still have this benefit?

Sick time buyback was brought about as a compromise, so workers wouldn't "be sick" the last month, two months, six months, whatever time they have accumulated. In the private sector, where buybacks don't occur, the attitude is "I'll be damned if I'm giving them back anything!" so the sick time is "burned off" so as not to be wasted. Buying sick time back at 50%, 40%, or even 10%, is a better deal than paying not only 100% in the form of wages to the person who's not at work, but having to pay someone else another 100% of those wages to come do the work.

You'd think you people would be able to see that.

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3VINDYAK(1799 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

This "Using the System" has now turned into "Abusing the System".

And we have not even begun to look at all the cases of public employees off on long term sick leave who are actually working another job, remodeling their house, or off on vacation.

This is just a small sample of the "Theft" going on by public employees from their government jobs. Everyone knows someone who is doing it, but no one wants to report them. We, as tax paying citizens have had enough. We want accountability and we want restitution.

We cannot continue in this direction. If Department Heads, Mayors, Councilmen, School Board members and other elected leaders do not begin clamping down on this abuse, then it's time to change the leadership.

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4dennismangan(14 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

An honorable person would be happy to be retiring from a job after 25 or 35 years and "wouldn't 'be sick' the last month, two months, six months, whatever time they have accumulated." That's one of the points of the editorial. A person who has access to sick leave shouldn't have to be bribed not to use it unnecessarily as they approach retirement. Dennis Mangan, editorial page editor

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5AnotherAverageCitizen(1175 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

All good points.

Now is a good time for kasich to give double digit raises to his staff. With back pay.

Why should the workers try to save money when the one in charge doesn't try to save money?

BYE BYE sb5

Vote NO on issue 2

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6Westsider(224 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

Vote yes on Issue 2

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7ytown1(392 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

Thank You Dennis for making that point fully clear.

Nobody wants to recognize that most if not all private sector workers get maybe 2-3 weeks vacation a year with maybe 5-7 paid sick days.

And yes if you are going to be out sick more than 2 days you are required to provide a doctors excuse. These are a use it or lose it vacations and sick days. You cannot accumulate them from year to year only to get paid a balloon payment upon retirement.

Again thanks Dennis for your response.

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8NoBS(1982 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

DennisMangan, ideally nobody would abuse their sick time, and nobody would "burn it off" at the end of their employment. In the real world, however, people are all different, and not all of them do what any one person wants them to do.

And as employee dissatisfaction increases, so do they become less willing to cooperate on matters such as giving back what some see as "theirs."

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9ghostofjohnyoung(163 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

Sick days should never be re-imbursed.

They certainly shouldn't be accumulated and allowed to be carried over years like this.

Nor should they be bartered in any way like these deals.

Frankly, sick days should have to be justified

If I had an employee take 3 days off then come back in bright eyed and fine on the 4th, I'd be inquiring what was wrong there.

If these folks are able to work all these years and do so without any sickness, I think it indicates exactly how well they are being paid and how non-stressed and underworked they are.

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10rocky14(717 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

ghostof

You are part of the problem.
If someone doesn't get sick that means they don't have any stress and are under worked?
That's the dumbest thing i have ever heard.
Get a life!
VOTE NO ON SB5

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11jupiter(116 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

The Vindicator wants everyone to make a living at a salary range no more than what they pay their own indentured servants.
Rather than this artificial, contrived debate scapegoating public employees (really, get a new gimmick) we should be discussing at what point have we let the media, in all their biased glory, become the de facto policy makers of society.
More specifically, the editorial pages at the Vindicator are sophomore fare-THE JAMBAR is more poignant and engendering to debate than this supposed "professional" paper.
Do contracts for public employees, particularly sick time and cash out benefits need readjusted to reflect society? Most certainly...and most are as new contracts are ratified. But this constant beating the drum of public employee vilification gets old.
Where is the outrage and righteous indignation against political puppets like Dave Johnson from Columbiana getting 60K for part time work. How about taking on outrageous corporate CEO pay and "golden parachutes?" Oh, that's right-the Vindy is nothing more than a GOP soapbox when we get down to the facts of the matter.
As for both Chief Hughes and Chief Rosa, I will offer this: at least neither one appears in danger of using their healthcare benefits anytime soon. Both appear to be able to bend over and tie their shoes. Which is a lot more than I can say for some Vindy staffers I have seen...

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12cambridge(3047 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

It's funny how a police chief and a battalion chief's jobs are compared to the average public sector job. The police chief is in my opinion the CEO of the police department and a battalion chief in my opinion is an executive position. I would say both of these gentlemen were under paid compared to the private sector.

I was raised to have respect for police, fire fighters, teachers, nurses and others who do jobs most people will not and can not. It's a shame everyone isn't raised to show the same respect.

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13jupiter(116 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

You are absolutely correct, FD6636. But the sycophants in our society (you know who you are...) fall for the party line. And right now the party line is to scapegoat public employees....
The Vindicator is far from unbiased in this. Where is the editorial about Dave Johnson? What about AIG executives taking ridiculous bonuses while the company needed TARP funding?
Advertisers in the Vindicator would do well to realize that its the MIDDLE CLASS, public and private, who patronize their businesses. ITS NOT CORPORATE EXECUTIVES.
The Vindicator is a prime example of an organization which has held this Valley back.

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14AnotherAverageCitizen(1175 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

I really don't favor the right to strike of any public employee, OK? That's my personal philosophy. ... They got good jobs, they got high pay, what are they striking for?" said the multimillionaire Kasich, who received a $400,000 bonus as managing director of Lehman Brothers the year they went bankrupt and helped collapse the economy.

So kasich gets $400,000 for running a company into the ground, you elect him and complain about a police chief getting paid for unused leave. I wonder if kasich thinks this officer is an IDIOT also. Kasich gives his people a HUGE raise and nobody cares, but if an officer gets a raise all heck breaks loose on this board.

BYE BYE sb5

Vote NO on issue 2

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15VindyPost(436 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

I find most of these comments utterly amazing. Whether private sector or public sector...personal leave, sick leave, annual leave, vacation are all awarded to employees. Frankly, regarding "sick" days ...none of anybody's business for diagnosis simply under "doctor's care".

Isn't hilarious how many golf courses are loaded on Fridays after 10:00 AM?( from Spring thru Fall)
Oh, that's right...doing business! Isn't it interesting Execs, Management, CEO, CFO, CMO, don't clock-in and can "make their own schedule"? Free cars, gas, and insurance ammenties? Business Write- off's at the Beer Garden and Winery, Cigar Theatre, and Fine Restaraunt, Fine Furniture Stores ,Fine Clothing allowance from Nordstrom, Bauman's or Malouf's, Doncaster, Louis Thomas and the $$$ of exquisite lines? In-home office write off's? How about fringe benefits, perhaps...time shares condominiums, usage of company jets, education compensation, health club memberships, company credit card usage, child care, parking/valet priviledges, profit sharing and stock options, twisted columns on their taxes? Perks and bennies are astronomical+quite the package.
So, in essence...before analyzing criteria ....Look and weigh out both sectors and evaluate the abuse and shady schemes as it affects the whole country. We all suffer from one's negligence, irresponsibility, or acting in bad faith, why...the mighty dollar! (and substantially more than an accrued $30,000 sick leave)

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16VindyPost(436 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

Oh....
P.S. Just ask John Kasich,--- ALL of This Has Been Also Awarded to Him and His Cronies! BTW John, "your tie is too tight and cutting your oxygen"!

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17AnotherAverageCitizen(1175 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

VP,

BTW John, "your tie is too tight and cutting your oxygen"!

HE SHOULD TAKE SICK LEAVE FOR 3 YEAR ABSENCE!!!!!!!!!!

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