For Government Unions, Layers Upon Layers of Deals

Ken Block has been highlighting peculiarities in payments to Warwick firefighters for unused sick time, and the Providence Journal has finally picked it up:

Under their contract, Warwick firefighters are entitled to 20 sick days per year at full pay. The city compensates firefighters for unused sick days, on a monthly basis, at a rate of pay that is 75 percent of their normal compensation.

Citing public records, the two critics, Rob Cote, a city resident, and Ken Block, a Warwick business owner who has previously run for governor, told the council that many firefighters had exceeded 20 sick days per year by using sick time and also collecting monthly payments that were supposed to be for unused sick time.

Block and Cote say the department paid firefighters for unused sick time each month, and also gave the firefighters a monthly credit.

The monthly credit was outside the terms of the contract, Block and Cote said. Firefighters took sick time, based on such credits, while receiving payment for unused sick time, they said.

Firefighters who were paid for their unused sick time each month should not have received additional credit, according to Cote and Block.

The closest thing to an explanation that reporter Mark Reynolds was able to provide was that the union had a “side deal” with former Mayor Scott Avedisian.  When the current administration put a stop to the practice, following Block and Cote’s alarm, the union filed a grievance.

As if the deal that government employees have isn’t good enough as written!  This 20 days of sick leave — equivalent to four weeks of paid time off — is on top of any days they take off due to illness or injury that they can plausibly connect with their jobs.  According to the contract, fire fighters can accumulate up to 140 days of sick leave over the years, for which they’ll be paid at a rate of three-quarters of their final pay when they leave the job for any reason.  It is only after they have hit this maximum that they then collect the monthly payments described in the article.

According to the city’s most recent audit, Warwick had a liability on its books for all employees of $12,723,194, with $1,576,840 expected to be paid within a year.  This is money that the city has committed to pay employees for days off that they didn’t use.  The total liability for this debt across all municipalities and state government was $238 million at the end of fiscal year 2016.

Private-sector workers might be astonished at these benefits, but if government employees are being paid this money as a bonus even when they use sick time, or if they are being paid the full amount for days for which they’re only supposed to be paid a percentage, the real compensation is much higher.

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