By Ann Marie Shambaugh
Some City of Carmel employees could soon see their workweek expand from 37.5 to 40 hours.
The Carmel Finance, Utilities and Rules Committee made the recommendation after a discussion about proposed salary increases revealed that the shortened workweek – implemented when Jane Reiman was mayor in the 1980s – is causing difficulties for city management and is no longer a fiscal necessity.
The city shortened the workweek at a time when it could not afford to give pay raises, and it remained in place after they were implemented again. At the Oct. 10 meeting, two department leaders said the policy leads to excessive unbudgeted overtime and headaches with calculating payroll.
“It’s hard to manage,” Carmel Human Resources Director Barbara Lamb. “We’ve got work for a 40-hour week. The reason for having a 37.5-hour week has passed.”
The length of the workweek was not on the meeting agenda, but it came up during a discussion of a salary ordinance that proposes raises for city employees. A consultant who recommended the raises compared Carmel’s pay rates with those of similar cities, but he did not account for the difference in hours worked per week.
Some councilors said they wanted the consultant to run the comparisons again with the different lengths of workweeks taken into account, but they were concerned they may not have a report back in time for a vote at the next council meeting.
When Lamb and another city leader expressed support for a 40-hour workweek, committee members said it made more sense to draft an ordinance resetting the workweek instead of having the consultant update proposed raises.
“We generate some efficiencies, we eliminate some management headaches, and we get into a more normal routine, more in parity with the private sector,” Councilor Jeff Worrell said.
Lamb told the committee the change is not likely to be popular among the approximately 250 employees affected.
“It would be perceived as a pay cut,” Lamb said. “It’s a cultural thing. Whenever you change something like that, it’s not easy.”
The committee members voted to send the salary ordinance to the full council with a favorable recommendation as long as an ordinance updating the workweek is also included. The city council next meets Oct. 17.