Council extends paid sick leave to city’s temporary employees
On Thursday, City Council made good on its promise to apply the same sick leave requirement to city government that it voted two weeks ago to impose on private employers.
In a 9-2 vote, Council approved a resolution directing city staff to establish a paid sick leave policy for the city’s many temporary employees who currently lack it. Beginning in October, all city employees will earn an hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours they work. They can earn up to eight paid sick days per year.
As was the case for the private sector sick leave ordinance, Council members Ora Houston and Ellen Troxclair were the only ones opposed. Both pointed to a lack of analysis by city staff on the cost of the benefit.
“There are too many unknowns, and I can’t endorse something where I don’t know what the outcome is going to be,” said Houston.
“I think it’s hugely irresponsible for us to be voting on such a major decision that’s going to impact our budget before we have any idea of the fiscal implications,” said Troxclair. “I’m really disappointed that this process has moved so quickly.”
Troxclair also linked such policies to rising property taxes, gentrification and displacement.
“These are the kinds of decisions that are driving people out of the city,” she said.
Council Member Ann Kitchen bristled at the idea that providing paid sick leave to city employees was a threat to affordability.
“If our workers cannot have a job where they can be home and get paid when they are sick, then we are sacrificing affordability for them,” she said. “And that is not the right thing to do.”
Council Member Leslie Pool said that she was concerned that dedicating funding to the benefit might mean less funding for other programs when the budget comes up in September, but she added that supporting city employees was a worthy priority.
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Key Players & Topics In This Article
Austin City Council: The Austin City Council is the body with legislative purview over the City of Austin. It offers policy direction, while the office of the City Manager implements administrative actions based on those policies. Until 2012, the body contained seven members, including the city's Mayor, all elected at-large. In 2012, City of Austin residents voted to change that system and now 10 members of the Council are elected based on geographic districts. The Mayor continues to be elected at-large.