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Park Rapids non-union employees asking for PTO accrual to be increased

Park Rapids non-union employees are not in favor of a proposal to switch their vacation and sick leave to a Paid Time Off (PTO) system without increasing the accrual.

City administrator Bill Smith made a proposal for the PTO system at the Feb. 9 Park Rapids City Council meeting. The resolution was tabled to have further discussion with staff.

Non-union employees offered a counter proposal at Tuesday's meeting.

Currently, non-union employees can accrue 800 hours of sick leave and 80 hours of vacation at the end of the year. Excess vacation hours were paid out and excess sick leave hours were lost.

The original proposal made by Smith would have converted unused vacation balances to PTO and converted the sick leave balance to "deferred sick leave" until the balance was exhausted. The deferred sick leave could be used for any doctor-certified extended leave of more than three consecutive days. An employee would be able to carry over no more than 120 hours of accrued PTO at the end of the calendar year. The excess would be paid out.

Non-union employees are asking for 600 hours of PTO accrual with any excess paid out at the end of the year. The suggestion was based on past precedent, since the council approved an additional 480 hours above the 120 hours of PTO for liquor store clerk Connie Becker for the length of her employment.

Smith wants to get the city's separate unions and non-union employees on the same pay system and that's the reason for switching to PTO.

Councilman Paul Utke said the employees wouldn't be losing anything because they would be paid out each year for excess.

But city planner Dan Walker, who is one of the non-union employees, said the reason they want 600 hours of accrual is for a safety net or peace of mind.

"It's not about the money," he said.

Smith suggested working on a compromise to allow for a higher accrual if the pay out upon resignation was lowered.

For example, currently, if any employee has been with the city for 10 years, the pay out for sick time is 50 percent. Before 10 years, there is no pay out for sick time.

Staff will work on another proposal to present the council at a future meeting.

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
(218) 631-2561