Jefferson County Commission debates work hours

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - The Jefferson County Commission is struggling to decide which county employees, if any should be placed on 40-hour work weeks or remain on 32-hour work weeks.

Tuesday, the commissioners okayed putting non-exempt workers in community development on 40 hour weeks. Commissioner William Bell, who oversees both that department and Cooper Green Mercy Hospital said those employees should be on 40-hour weeks because those departments do not depend of  funds from the county's occupational tax for funding.

"This is a separate fund," Bell said. "I don't think they should be penalized for them and their families when the money is there."

Not everyone agrees. Commissioner Bobby Humphryes did not support putting some on full work weeks while others continue to work reduced hours.

"We got some people working 40 hours, some working 32, I want everyone back on the same schedule," Humphryes said. "I want them back on 40."

Commissioner Humphryes said he will again consider putting his road and transportation department on a full schedule after meeting with finance officials later this week. But, Commission President Bettye Fine Collins cautioned against the idea Tuesday, saying declining revenues may make it impossible to grant the commissioner's wish.

"I think every commissioner and department head needs to realize, that if we take everyone back to a 40 hour work week, then there will be people who would lose their jobs," Collins said.

Commissioner Sheila Smoot agreed.

"It's great we got people back, but 32 hours is greater than zero," Smoot said. "I think to play it safe we will wait till January."

Commissioner Collins said she expects the county will need to layoff more employees next year if the economy has not improved enough.

Collins also announced Tuesday the county is spending job tax funds collected after August 14th, the date of the legislature approved a new occupational tax. Collins also denied job tax funds collected from January until Aug. 14th has been generating interest as a part of a possible refund to taxpayers.