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Monday, December 15, 2008

Snow Day Troubles at City of Portland

Posted by Amy J. Ruiz on Mon, Dec 15, 2008 at 4:59 PM

Remember the snow storm of 2004, and the "snow day pay" mini-scandal involving then-Multnomah County Chair Diane Linn? A recap: Linn gave county workers a snow day, telling them to stay home if they couldn't make it in through the ice and snow. Those who stayed home still got paid. Those who came in got paid double.

Not surprisingly, Linn was in hot water with the voters for paying people that didn't work, or paying them extra for coming in on a day they were supposed to come in. (She later retracted the bonus vacation day.)

Fast forward four years to today's snow day. It looks like the City of Portland is working hard to avoid getting in the same situation Linn was in. In the process, they're confusing the hell out of their employees, and potentially penalizing them, says one union official.

Last night, during Mayor-elect Sam Adams' Storm Watch 2008 press conference, he relayed a message from Mayor Tom Potter, according to KGW: "Portland Public Schools would be closed Monday and non-essential city employees were asked by current Mayor Tom Potter not to come to work before 10 a.m., the mayor-elect said." The same instructions were on the city's website.

So some city workers were surprised to find an email from the city's human resources department this morning—shortly after 10 am—noting that they'd have to cover the hours from 8 am to 10 am with their own leave, if they usually are in for those hours.

The City of Portland Professional Employees Association (COPPEA) is trying to untangle the confusion that resulted when staffers were both told to stay home, and told they'd be docked for staying home—a.k.a. "the mixed message provided by the city," according to COPPEA vice president Scott Batson.

Batson points to the notice posted on the city's website. "From the union's point of view, that appeared to be a directive from the mayor on the website," he says. Once at work, "they were met with an email message which was internal which said if they came to work late they would have to use personal vacation time or leave of absence. From the union's point of view that's an economic penalty."

The union officers are meeting tomorrow, and this topic will be on the agenda, Batson says.

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