By Sue Botos
As the police department settles into its second week of 12-hour shifts, employees of the Rocky River Wastewater Treatment Plant are looking forward to their own schedule change, which has been approved by City Council.
By unanimous vote at its last legislative session, council agreed to amend the current collective bargaining agreement with plant employees, which runs through the end of 2013, to include 12-hour shifts for plant operators. According to ordinance sponsor Councilman at Large Dave Furry, the measure will allow management to spend time with night shift employees for three months at a time for training and supervision. The agreement differs from the police department’s in that these are rotating shifts and not permanently assigned.
“There’s been a lot of back and forth with this,” Furry stated, referring to the shift change, which has been under discussion for about two years. The plan has been approved by plant workers and the management committee, which is composed of representatives from the four cities using the plant : Rocky River, Fairview Park, Bay Village and Westlake. Furry added that special counsel David Matty and Law Director Andrew Bemer have prepared language to discontinue the program if it does not work. The current shift arrangement could be reinstated within 60 days.
“This is tailored to meet the needs of the wastewater treatment plant. The rotating shifts are designed to minimize overtime. We believe this is a positive thing,” commented Mayor Pam Bobst.
Plant Supervisor Jeff Harrington, when contacted by phone, added that the shift change will be an advantage for management. “This is set up so we can see all of the operators. Now, we never see three of the nine operators,” he said of the night shift workers. Harrington added that while the police department is also piloting a 12-hour shift program, supervisors are assigned to the nighttime slots. For safety reasons, Harrington said there are always two operators on duty 24 hours a day. Neither operator is designated as a supervisor. These workers walk through the entire plant at least three times during their workday, monitoring equipment and computers, making any necessary adjustments.
Employees other than operators will continue with eight-hour shifts.
The schedule will be based upon a 14-day time period, with a 40-hour workweek in each seven-day period. The shifts run from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. for the night crew. An additional eight-hour “off shift” will also be scheduled during the 14 days. The schedules switch crews from day to night, and vice versa, every three months.
Harrington continued that the revamping of schedules will allow for the plant staff to be reduced from 19 to 18 upon the planned retirement of a worker. He said in addition to a reduction in overtime, the plant will save an additional $75,000 by not replacing the licensed operator.
“The city wants to be budget-conscious, but we’re cautious about lowering the workforce,” commented Harrington, adding, “Operations are our first priority.” Harrington said that any maintenance such as painting, grass mowing and snow removal are done by employees during their shift and are not contracted out.
The new schedules are currently being set up and are expected to take effect in January.