Unionized Teaneck employees urged township council members not to change the town’s municipal four-day workweek, saying it had improved working conditions and called a debate over their schedule politically motivated.
Members of AFSCME, which represents some town hall staffers, turned out at Tuesday night’s town council meeting after the possibility of modifying the four-day week emerged at a council candidates forum last week. Councilwoman Barbara Toffler has criticized the four-day schedule and residents have called for the municipal building to stay open on Fridays.
“The productivity has gone up instead of down, attendance is up instead of down,” said AFSCME Local 820 President Rosiland V. McLean, the zoning and planning board secretary. “The morale has increased since previous layoffs that took place in 2009.”
A schedule change would force workers to rearrange their schedules set since the four-day week was implemented in August 2009, McLean said. Employees would have to rearrange childcare and second jobs.
“It seems not to be enough that we’re working with reduced staff and asked to do more with less,” McLean told council members.
Union members, McLean said, were being thrown into a political squabble and she had not received any complaints from residents on the issue.
“Why is this issue being muddied by people’s personal issues with the manager?” McLean asked. “We are being used as political footballs.”
Curtis Caviness, a health department employee, said workers didn’t need to be in the office to do their jobs.
“We’re in the 21st century,” he said. “We have cell phones, we have emails.”
Residents at Tuesday’s meeting, however, said the issue is about service not politics.
“I’ve heard many residents complain about the four day work week,” said township resident Mildred Tucker.
Naomi Cramer, who has spoken out about the issue, suggested a skeleton staff or staggered schedule could be used to keep the town hall open on Fridays.
“I’m really sorry that some of the speakers turned this into a political issue,” Cramer said.
Calls to change the four-day workweek for town hall staffers have surfaced on and off in council meetings. The employee’s schedule became an election issue last week when it was .
Toffler has opposed the four-day schedule, saying there was no utility cost savings. A resident survey showing support for the idea was flawed because only 11 people were polled, she said at last week’s candidate forum.
The issue should be part of union negotiations, Toffler said at Tuesday’s meeting.
Councilwoman Lizette Parker said the township manager should find a way to keep town hall open on Fridays without disturbing the union.
“I’m a public employee,” Parker said. “I believe that public services should be offered five days a week.”
Councilman Elie Y. Katz said he received only a small number of complaints about the town hall schedule. The later hours afforded by closing Fridays better fit the town’s commuters, he said.
Mayor Mohammed Hameeduddin said any change would need to come through labor negotiations, not council action.
An AFSCME representative said the union would fight any return to a five-day workweek.