City Hall Switching To 4-Day Work Week

Stephanie DeWolfe
So Pas City Manager

You can’t fight City Hall — and after Labor Day, you won’t even have a chance to try on Fridays.

That’s because, starting on Tuesday, Sept. 3 (the first workday after Labor Day), most employees at City Hall will switch to a four-day work week — with expanded hours Monday through Thursday but doors locked to the public every Friday.

City workers affected by the new schedule will still toil 40 hours a week, just compressed into four days instead of five.

The new, regular, three-day weekend will apply to the city’s Finance, Planning, Community Services and Public Works departments, as well as the City Manager’s and City Clerk’s offices, according to an announcement this week by City Manager Stephanie DeWolfe.

The Police Department, Fire Department, library and senior center will not be affected, DeWolfe said in the announcement.

According to Public Information Officer John Pope, the revised schedule is one element of the new three-year labor contracts the city signed with the municipal employees’ union, as well as with the police and firefighter unions. The City Council signed off on those contracts at its July 17 meeting.

While there will some modest cost savings for cash-strapped South Pasadena, Pope said the “primary driver” of the new schedule was that “employees were in favor of some non-monetary ways of providing benefits to city employees in this last round of contract negotiations.”

According to DeWolfe’s announcement, “The schedule is being adopted by an increasing number of government agencies in an effort to improve employee morale, reduce air pollution by cutting the number of car trips, and save energy costs during Friday building closures.’’

Indeed, South Pasadena is not unique in switching to the so-called “4/40” schedule. In the area, West Covina, El Monte, South El Monte, Rosemead and Azusa have gone to such a set-up. San Marino has half days on Fridays, from 7 a.m. to noon.

“Fridays tend to be slow in terms of foot traffic at City Hall, and we’ve had support from the public for expanding the weekday hours,” DeWolfe said. “We’ll be monitoring our front-counter activity for the next several months to see how it’s working.”

But if the new schedule meets with public disapproval, the city could not simply reverse course and go back to a five-day work week — officials would first have to bring the matter to the municipal workers union and reopen labor talks.

“We recognize that if this isn’t working, we would have to go to the unions,’’ Pope said. “(That element) would have to be renegotiated.”

“We expect it to be successful, but if it weren’t successful, we’d had to have that conversation.”

Pope also acknowledged, “There may be some challenges early on.”

Beginning, Sept. 3, City Hall will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday — with employees working 10 hours per day plus a half-hour lunch break.

The city already is working on a somewhat modified work week known around City Hall as the “9/80,” in which workers work nine hours four days a week, with every other Friday off – leaving a half staff on duty each Friday, at least until the week of Sept. 3. The “80” refers to the total of 80 hours worked over two weeks – basically, two 40-hour weeks unevenly divided. 

The city’s previous labor contracts were signed in 2017 and were set to expire on June 30 before the new deals were struck. Those contracts lacked salary increases, and previous contracts had provided only marginal hikes.

As a result, according to a city report, municipal employees were compensated “significantly below average” for small cities in the region.

South Pasadena also is facing a $1.5 million annual budget deficit — and that was one factor in the creative negotiations that led to the new four-day work week.

In an effort to close that budget gap, the city also is proposing a three-quarter-cent municipal sales tax, a matter that will go before voters in November.

South Pasadena currently has no municipal sales tax. Only about 1 percent of the county’s sales-tax revenues land in the city’s coffers, Pope said.

The city is planning several informational sessions with local groups in the coming weeks regarding the proposed municipal tax.  While the proposed tax would close most, but not all, of the budget hole, Pope cautioned that the sessions, by law, will have to be informational and not cross the line into advocacy.