Section 164 of the city charter for the city of Portsmouth reads in part – “Except in the case of extraordinary emergencies and except as hereinafter provided, not to exceed eight hours shall constitute a day’s work and not to exceed 48 hours, a week’s work…” Now, Portsmouth City Manager Derek K. Allen is asking Portsmouth City Council to place a charter amendment on the ballot that would remove the eight hour stipulation, which would leave open the possibility for members of the Portsmouth Police Department to work 12 hour shifts.
“We had a meeting with the police department and we discussed the possibility of going to 12 hour shifts,” Allen said. “There’s advantages for the city as we would be able to put more officers on the street. There’s more people per shift so that you don’t have to call people in on overtime to cover minimum manning on shifts.”
Allen said there were discussions as to whether or not coming to a labor agreement would overrule the charter.
“We just felt that it was not something I really wanted to do,” Allen said. “I would rather go to the voters to get it removed.”
Allen said the eight hour language appears to be a part of the original city charter, written in 1928.
“It 1972 it was amended to add the language for the Fire Department to have three 24 hour shifts,” Allen said. “I did speak to the Fire Department about deleting the entire section of this and they did not want to do that and I really wasn’t looking to start fighting with the Fire Department, so my recommendation is just to remove the eight hour language so that we would have the opportunity to do 12 hour shifts.”
First Ward Councilman Jim Kalb said with the language removed, any employee of any department could theoretically work a 12 hour shift.
“Where it becomes advantageous is if you were on a continuous operation, like the police department or water treatment plant or wastewater treatment plant. I know that some places have shifts at water and wastewater plants over the weekend, and they are 12 hour shifts because they wouldn’t be able to cover the shifts because nobody wants to work those weekends,” Allen said. “My only intent is for the police department.”
Kalb took the opportunity to dispel any ideas that the removal of the hours language would cause chaos in the work day.
“This would ultimately be at your discretion,” Kalb said. “A department just can’t decide because that language isn’t there anymore, they can’t just say we’re going to start with 12 hour shifts.”
There was one more component to the scheduling.
“I think the labor agreements would probably come into play,” Portsmouth City Solicitor John Haas said. “Any labor agreement specifies overtime and all that.”
Allen said, if the police department chooses to go to 12 hour shifts, there are provisions that they can’t work extra duties after they’ve been working for 12 hours. The schedule would have officers working three days one week and four days the next week. He said police were willing to waive the built-in overtime.
“They said they were willing to not have overtime because you work 36 one week, but you work 48 the next,” Allen said.
Allen said there would be a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) until it was placed on the ballot. He said the deadline for getting the amendment to the Scioto County Board of Elections is Feb. 1, 2016.
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.