EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

December 24, 2012

City dumps costly plow coverage

(Continued)

"There's a good plan in place now," Zanni said. "We'll wait and see in terms of savings. I think it's an improvement."

Gagliardi said Methuen DPW employees will be paid time and a half for a minimum of four hours if they're called into work.

"Gauge the year as it goes," said Gagliardi. "I think it makes sense given the weather we've had the last couple of years."

Gagliardi said the union conceded the 24-hour schedule without receiving anything in return. But he noted new contract negotiations are set to begin early next year.

"It's certainly an issue we'll be addressing," Gagliardi said. "This is a cooperative relationship that the union has with the city."

On-call employees are used for overnight and weekend plow coverage in Andover and North Andover. In Haverhill, one public works employee covers evening and overnight shifts year-round, Monday through Friday. That 24-hour coverage is extended to the weekend between Nov. 1 and April 1, when one employee is assigned to each eight-hour shift on Saturdays and Sundays. In Lawrence, one employee works from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. each night during the winter and responds to calls for black ice and other issues on the roads.

In Methuen, employees were required to work seven days a week in the winter to earn weekend overtime, including 40 hours Monday through Friday followed by eight-hour shifts on Saturday and Sunday.

Employees were paid regular rates Monday through Friday, but the nine employees on the weekend shift earned between $27.70 to $44.30 per hour in overtime pay. The cost of staffing three eight-hour shifts on Saturdays and Sundays with a foreman, truck driver and laborer — and paying out 144 hours of overtime — translated to $5,022 each weekend.

In 2010-2011, 25 Methuen DPW employees earned $2,000 or more in snow and ice overtime. All together, the nine weekend crew members plus one alternate employee earned $96,502 in overtime pay.

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