Schmoke retreats on comp time ban


Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke has retreated from a plan to eliminate compensatory time for white-collar municipal employees, instead settling on a compromise that would allow employees to earn a maximum of 100 hours of comp time a year.

The new policy, scheduled to go into effect next year, tightens the current practice that allows 1,300 white-collar municipal employees to accrue 400 hours of comp time.

Also under the new plan, employees would be allowed to carry only 40 hours of comp time from one year to the next.

Comp time is earned by employees who work hours beyond their normal workday and do not receive overtime pay.

"We are very pleased with this," said Bernadette A. Greene, president of the Managerial and Professional Society (MAPS), the association that represents the city's white-collar employees.

MAPS members were angry last summer after Mr. Schmoke announced plans to eliminate compensatory time for MAPS employees.

The change, which came under immediate fire from MAPS members, was aimed at stopping comp time abuse and reducing the amount of severance pay workers receive when they leave city employment.

Routinely, top city officials accrue massive amounts of comp time, which they then use in lieu of vacation and accumulated leave. When they leave city employment, they trade their unused leave time for cash.

One recent payout totaled more than $100,000, a source said.

Shortly after the Schmoke administration announced the comp time ban, MAPS hired an attorney to explore the legality of the action -- a move that helped pressure the city into a compromise.

MAPS, which has no collective bargaining rights, also talked about unionizing -- a discussion that continues.

"There was total agreement that something had to be done," said Melvin Harris, the city's labor commissioner.

"But a number of concerns had been raised regarding the issue."

Under the new policy, MAPS employees will have an opportunity to convert any unused compensatory time into sick leave or pension credits. Afterward, employees will be allowed to earn only 100 hours of comp time a year -- only 40 of which can be rolled forward year to year.

"People will have to use it or lose it," Mr. Harris said.

Mr. Harris also said that the city plans to tighten the allocation of comp time by requiring supervisors to pre-approve extra hours.

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