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Paid to eat or working for free?

Charles Ewry, Staff Writer

County employees have been receiving four hours’ worth of pay each week for services not rendered.
In terms of vacation, that is the equivalent of five weeks off, paid, in addition to 17 paid holidays and also actual vacation time.
That’s our taxpayer dollars at work, or, should I say, at play?
My little analogy is a bit misleading. Those hours came in the form of a paid lunch break, not ghost employment.
That is five weeks’ worth of pay each year — a reward for performing an act essential for survival: eating. And if they used some leftover time to go shopping, it would be like winning one of those shopping sprees where …
There I go getting carried away again.
Taxpayers, relax. The paid lunch hour is no more. County workers will now have a half-hour, unpaid lunch. They will also be working until 4:30 every weekday afternoon.
But, it gets better.
Those county employees will be receiving no additional compensation for this extra four hours of labor weekly. That’s like five weeks of unpaid labor each year. What a bargain for us.
Heck, they practically got a pay cut.
Wait, that’s not a good thing. We non-public-employed taxpayers should be ashamed of ourselves.
Once again, I exaggerate. Darned journalists and their distortions.
I included these two outrageous points of view because they represent the arguments of those who support and oppose the aforementioned paid hour lunch.
Things would be a little easier if people would tell the whole story. And that, I hope, is why you bought this newspaper.
Once upon a time, very recently, the county employees were paid a salary and received a paid hour lunch. But when the salaried pay went, by action of the county council and commissioners, so did the lunch hour.
The employees were always considered to be on a 40-hour week. That number 40 was made up of 36 hours at work and four at lunch. Now it is made up of, quite simply, 40 hours at work.
Also, those employees will now be paid hourly, instead of on salary. The hourly wage will be directly based on each employee’s salary.
Depending on who is arguing, the employees are either working four hours without being paid or were eating for four hours and being paid to do it.
Since the amount of money being shelled out hasn’t changed, obviously something is amiss. Funny how a point can often be argued both ways.
But for certain, the council and commissioners are changing the rules in the middle of the game. That always makes it harder to win. And so, justifiably, some workers are beginning to call foul.
Anyone can sympathize, but few people will.
Every county is full of John Q. Taxpayers who take pride in what they see as the right to criticize whatever compensation and conditions are afforded a government employee.
Ironically, we all pay each others’ salaries, whether publicly or privately employed. That is the nature of capitalism.
Public employees are unique in that everyone gets a peek at the paycheck and can, through influence upon elected officials, indirectly impact benefits received. (Imagine if we had that power over private employees, too.)
Besides that hour lunch, one of the terms of employment accepted by county workers when they took the job was to face public scrutiny. And now they will have to pay the piper.
In today’s work place, the paid lunch hour is a relic. It was only a matter of time before principle mandated it was taken from county employees.
In America, the government serves the people, not the other way around, and if a perk is found exorbitant in the private sector, it will certainly be seen as such for public employees.
When the paid lunch hour was drawn to public attention, it was already on its way out the door with a pink slip in its pocket.

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