San Antonio:
Brechtel to Review Pay for City's Temps

Express-News: Metro and State
Brechtel to review pay for city's temps
By Ihosvani Rodriguez
San Antonio Express-News

Web Posted : 09/02/2001

Leaders for a union representing San Antonio city employees said they are considering demanding reclassification and back pay for temporary employees, which union leaders said could cost the city millions of dollars.

The temporary city employees receive no benefits and are paid less than the city's mandated minimum wage of $8.25 per hour, and union leaders maintain some have had their jobs as long as seven years.

According to the Service Employees International Union leaders, 2,541 temporary workers earn $6.25 instead of the mandated minimum of $8.25.

But city officials countered that many of those are employees who work either seasonal or occasional jobs, such as the ticket takers working at the Alamodome.

However, City Manager Terry Brechtel acknowledged that as many as 1,000 employees will have job classifications and wages re-evaluated and eventually corrected. She said the city's accounting system lists all temporary workers as earning $6.25, but many are paid more.

"It's a confusing issue, and it's become a bureaucratic issue to work through," Brechtel said. "There are some employees that have fallen through the cracks, and there is now a plan to look at our options and properly classify them and their wages."

That plan will be the central issue during a meeting scheduled for Wednesday between the city manager and union leaders, Brechtel said.

Union leaders said they realized the predicament of city temporary workers during their quest for higher salaries for all city employees.

Former City Manager Alex Briseño's last budget featured a living wage provision meant to establish $8.25 as the minimum for all city workers.

However, after conducting their research, the union found that many city workers earn much less because the living wage provision applies only to "full-time and part-time" employees.

"There's one lady who has had a temporary job for a year and half and just had a baby die," said Karen A. Bahow, director of the Service Employees International Union. "Now she's on nonpaid maternity leave and nonpaid bereavement leave. It's sad, and it's unfair."

Late last month, Brechtel proposed a $1.4 billion consolidated annual budget and a $599.9 million general fund budget that would increase the basic living wage paid to about 1,500 city employees by 25 cents an hour to $8.50 an hour.

In all, $5.7 million more is budgeted for raises in the proposed budget, which includes a 3 percent raise for nonexecutive team members and a 2 percent raise for those on the executive team.

As both sides try to rehash the definition of a "temporary," union officials already are vowing to seek back pay for the employees who are eventually reclassified.

"That's something we haven't really looked into, and that needs to be reviewed by the city attorney," Brechtel said.

Columnist Carlos Guerra contributed to this report.