RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. - In a time when essential personnel have to report on site for work, some unions are asking that their members be fairly compensated. Especially after learning managers in Riviera Beach are receiving time-and-one-half pay for all hours worked during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We are just asking for a little something,” said John Kazanjian, President of the Palm Beach County Police Benevolent Association.
Recently, Kazanjian sent a letter to 20 different law enforcement agencies or municipalities asking for something, anything to help boost morale for those who protect and serve.
“We are required to show up to work and we know that,” said Kazanjian. “However, some employees are working from home while we are on the front lines.”
Recently, the City of Riviera Beach agreed to pay all employees 100 percent of their paychecks, even if they are asked to work from home or work reduced hours.
According to the memo, from April 12 to April 18, of the 21,448 hours getting paid out to city employees, 7,174 hours were non-worked hours. In other words, one-third of paychecks were given to those who were asked to stay safe and stay home.
“The intent behind it was to show that our employees are valued differently than other agencies, and they are the most valuable commodity that we have,” City Manager Jonathan Evans told Contact 5 last week.
While Riviera’s pandemic pay policy was well-received among some, it also included a time-and-one-half increase for managers like Evans for all hours worked, not just overtime hours.
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“[That includes] me, the department directors and everyone in the management group,” said Evans, who noted that the time-and-one-half increase was an expense that can be reimbursed by the federal government. “It is a total of about 70 employees.”
The pandemic pay policy, according to Evans, was inspired by the city’s 2005 FEMA Disaster Policy: the same one Riviera Beach government officials have turned for every hurricane since.
Read the entire pandemic pay policy from Riviera Beach officials bellow
Despite the historic precedent, Riviera’s pandemic pay policy sparked push back from the SEIU Florida Public Services Union who represents people like 911 dispatchers, sanitation, and utility workers.
“We are not asking for anymore [money],” said Florida Public Services Union President Alphonso Mayfield. “We just think that it is wrong that management at this time has chosen to give themselves time-and-one-half.”
Mayfield told Contact 5 his group had been in contact with Riviera Beach, but would not disclose if any negotiations were underway.
“We just want managers to get the same pay as everyone else.” he said.
Of the more than 7,000 non-worked hours getting paid out to Riviera Beach city employees, more than 4,000 of them are going to SEIU workers, according to the memo put out by Riviera Beach government. It is by far the highest group of employees to receive payment for non-worked hours. By comparison, 392 non-worked hours were being paid to managers.
Mayfield disputed the memo from city officials and told Contact 5 he was waiting on the results of a public records request to see if his hypothesis was correct.
“If people are reporting for work [under these conditions], they should receive some kind of hazard pay,” said Mayfield, who pointed to a Riviera Beach 911 dispatcher who recently tested positive for coronavirus.
“We do want to recognize those who are out there on the front lines,” said Evans. “We are also having conversation with other municipalities to see what they are doing, so nothing is off the table.”
Back at the Police Benevolent Association, Kazanjian told Contact 5 of the 20 municipalities he had reached out to, eight had offered to step up for their deputies and officers.
Examples included a five percent pay increase for all full-time Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office deputies during the coronavirus pandemic, time-and-one-half for Jupiter police officers, and an extra $200 stipend per pay period for West Palm Beach officers.
Evans said they are currently considering a 5 percent pay increase for Riviera Beach union officers, but the decision is still under review.
“I know these cities and these towns are going through some hardship with some revenue not coming in,” said Kazanjian. “We are okay if they want to give us some vacation time. Give us something. That is all we’re asking.”