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Wednesday, April 24, 2019

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Parish employees get hazard pay raise

Parish employees get hazard pay raise

Seems like a simple thing to give parish employees a raise for working in emergency situations.  Administration proposes the increase in pay.  The Council votes yes (or no) to the increase.   Employees get the raise.

But not so fast—the voting part is the rub, especially when the voters aren’t paying attention, or haven’t studied the proposal.

The proposed change in pay policy almost didn’t happen Tuesday night in Mathews when councilmen, who had at least five days to look over the proposed changes, acted like they had never seen the proposal before or even thought about its intent.

By law, Ordinance 4962 allows employees to receive time and one-half pay for all hours worked during a declared emergency, such as a hurricane. 

Recently, employees have voiced their concern (during and after Hurricane Isaac and other emergency events in which they were called to work) that they are being paid little more than the employees who do not work in these situations.

Parish President Charlotte Randolph agreed, introducing a new pay policy which would reward those employees who are essentially risking their lives for the good of the parish, or at least responding in the declared emergency.

The new ordinance, offered at Tuesday’s meeting, calls for any employee who works while parish offices are closed during a state of emergency to be paid at two and one-half times his or her hourly rate for those hours worked. 

Additionally, when parish offices open again after an emergency, any employee working in the field as a result of the emergency will receive two and one-half times his or her hourly rate for those hours worked in the field.

But some councilmen, who may or may not have studied the proposal or even met with administration to discuss the ordinance, added amendments to the ordinance which caused more confusion than anything else.

Jerry Jones proposed an amendment to require the parish president to communicate with the Council Chairman of any plans by administration to use legislative employees for work during the state of emergency.

Randolph called this unnecessary, as each employee clearly knows his or her role in any emergency scenario.

Jones’s proposal passed 6-3 with councilmen Caillouet, Gouaux, and Arnold voting against it.

Jerry Lafont’s amendment that employees who are called should receive three meals and a place to sleep during a state of emergency was rescinded by Lafont himself.  Randolph agreed to add this measure to the Emergency Response and Recovery policy without vote.

Joe Fertitta’s amendment to pay responders at a rate of 2.5 times their normal pay and 3.5 times for holidays was not considered either as councilmen finally realized that they would be essentially voting on Randolph’s ordinance. 

Voting for Fertitta’s amendment was the same as voting for the ordinance.

Daniel Lorraine’s amendment to pay all responders at a rate of double time for all hours worked, even holidays, was discussed heavily with the “holidays” provision finally dropped from the amendment.

The vote on Lorraine’s amendment was 5-4 with Gouaux, Arnold, Fertitta, and Toups voting no.

When many employees in the audience became upset with the vote, and when Randolph made everyone realize that they had just voted to give employees less money, Lafont suddenly demanded to change his vote.

Lindell Toups then called for a re-vote on Lorraine’s amendment and it failed 0-9. 

Finally, after an hour of excessive debate, votes were cast on the ordinance.  It passed 7-2 with Lafont and Gouaux voting no.

Both said they voted no because some verbiage in the ordinance lacked clarity.