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Home > Leadership > Mayor > CitiStat Buffalo > Archive CitiStat Buffalo In The News > 2006 Archives > New System Targets Abuse Of Sick Leave

New System Targets Abuse Of Sick Leave

Copyright 2006 The Buffalo News
Buffalo News (New York)
:By Brian Meyer - News Staff Reporter

Sanitation workers suspected of abusing sick leave are being threatened with disciplinary action as the city's new accountability system continues to red-flag trouble spots.

The CitiStat panel raised questions Friday about increased overtime in the Streets Sanitation Division. Public Works Commissioner Joseph N. Giambra said part of the problem stems from a recent push to cut overtime by limiting the number of sanitation workers allowed to take personal leave time on any given day.

Giambra said some employees have called in sick after their requests for time off were denied. Streets and Sanitation Director John Scardino Jr. recently met with union representatives.

"He told them it's something we're going to be watching," Giambra said. "We told them they can't keep doing this, . . . or they're going to be getting themselves in trouble."

Giambra later estimated that up to 15 sanitation workers and truck drivers might be bending the rules. A few already have received warning letters. If the city pursues disciplinary action, it could impose fines, suspend workers or even fire them.

The city's top legal adviser also encouraged public works officials to challenge employees who have a pattern of calling in sick after weekends and holidays. Giambra assured Corporation Counsel Alisa A. Lukasiewicz that he already is watching for such trends. He noted that some excesses can be easily spotted.

"For example, nobody gets sick every single Friday after pay day," he told The Buffalo News.

Overtime in streets sanitation hit 3,610 hours in the most recent two-week pay period. Giambra said the Fourth of July holiday accounts for most of it, but he estimated that up to 500 hours might be the result of sick leave abuse.

William C. Travis, president of the city's blue-collar union, was not available to comment.

Buffalo's control board, meanwhile, has approved a $257,000 emergency appropriation so the city can buy 5,600 garbage totes to help grapple with one of the most common complaints among property owners. In the first half of the year, about 3,000 people called the mayor's complaint line to report broken or stolen containers.

"People are passionate about their totes," Citizen Services Director Oswaldo Mestre Jr. said.