COMMERCE — The workday will be longer for city employees this summer, but so will every second weekend.
The City Council on Tuesday approved an experimental work schedule by which the city's 140 full-time employees will be off every other Friday in exchange for workdays that are up to an hour longer. The new schedule will enable City Hall to stay open until 6 p.m., instead of 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
"Staying open an hour longer serves the needs of the community," Councilman Robert J. Cornejo said.
"If I was an employee I'd like it," said Mayor Ruth R. Aldaco, who noted that it would enable employees to spend more time with their families.
The fiscal impact is expected to be minimal--the cost of additional air conditioning and lighting, personnel director Tom Sykes said.
The new schedule starts June 6 and runs through Aug. 26. Employees will be surveyed during August to help the council decide whether to make the new schedule permanent, Sykes said.
It will be the third time Commerce has experimented with a modified work schedule. Other local governments, including Los Angeles County, are using altered work schedules to reduce traffic congestion and air pollution, increase public service, and make better use of space and equipment.
Commerce first used an altered schedule in the summer of 1984, when the city responded to calls to reduce traffic during the Los Angeles Summer Olympics, Sykes said. At that time, city workers clocked in at 7:30 a.m. and worked until 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday.
The modified schedule drew mixed reactions from city employees. Young employees and workers without children enjoyed having three-day weekends, but the schedule created child-care problems for others, he said.
In addition, the long days took their toll in fatigue on workers, although their productivity remained largely unaffected, Sykes said.
"I think the morale may have been low because there were some tired people here," Sykes said. A 1984 survey revealed worker opposition to a permanent four-day work week.
The city tried the four-day week again last summer.
"The second time we didn't have as much (opposition) from employ-ees," Sykes said. "It wasn't as much of an emotional trauma."
Sykes said a group of employees brought up the idea again this year. But this time, staff recommended that employees work for nine days in each two-week period. Sykes said he hopes the moderately longer workday will cause fewer problems for employees with children, and be less tiring as well.
Under the new schedule, employees will work from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. nine days during the two-week period. Schedules will be staggered so about half the city's employees will have every other Friday off.
"We would be somewhat short on staff (on Fridays)," Sykes said. "We would still be able to serve the public."
Employees now spend 8 1/2 hours a day at City Hall, including an hour off for lunch. That amounts to 75 working hours per employee every two weeks. Under the new schedule, employees will be at City Hall 9 1/2 hours a day, including an hour for lunch, except on the ninth day, when they will receive a 30 minutes for lunch, Sykes said. That amounts to 77 working hours every two weeks. Because the city already pays its employees for a 40-hour workweek, it will pay no more for the additional hours, he said.
Nancy Ramos-Sanchez, chairperson of the city's Employees Committee, said workers in seven of the city's nine departments favor the modified schedule. The Employees Committee is composed of representatives elected by city workers. Municipal employees are not represented by a union.
"It gives us that extra day off," she said.
The city's 155 part-time employees may also be required to work different hours depending on scheduling demands, especially on Fridays when there will be a staffing shortage, Sykes said.