Report Public Workforce

The 40-Hour Week

A Proposal To Increase The Productivity of Non-Managerial Civilian Municipal Workers

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December 03, 2002

Of the nearly 250,000 full-time employees of the City of New York, about 80,000 are “non-managerial civilians.” This means they are not teachers or other types of educators at the Department of Education or the City University; they are not uniformed employees such as police officers, firefighters or correction officers; and they are not managers such as Commissioners or other senior officials. Of these 80,000 civilians, less than 10,000 are required to work a 40-hour week. About 3,400 civilians work a 37.5-hour week, and more than 67,000 work a 35-hour week.

This report recommends that those civilians not working a 40-hour week be required to do so. The estimated savings to the City from this change would be $498 million annually. This savings would be realized because fewer workers could accomplish the same amount of work. About 8,500 positions could be eliminated if all civilians worked a 40-hour week. The average savings per worker would be about $58,000 including salary, fringe benefits and space costs.

Two obstacles must be overcome in order to achieve the full, potential savings. First, there is a high degree of occupational specialization among the civilians. If fewer than eight workers do the same job, then it might not be possible to reallocate the work among a smaller group and accomplish the same volume of work in a 40-hour week as was done by more employees in a 35-hour week. In fact, the City's civilian employees are divided among more than 1,100 different job titles, but most are in positions with many incumbents. Only about 7 percent of the workers, or about 5,700, are in job titles with less than eight incumbents in the same agency. For these workers the shift to a 40-hour week should be accompanied by the sharing of work across agencies and combining tasks now limited to narrowly defined job descriptions, known as “broad-banding.”

The second potential obstacle is geographic dispersion of workers among many different locations, making it difficult for a smaller number of workers to share tasks. In fact, civilian employees work at 1,556 different locations. However, most are concentrated at a few large locations; fully 73 percent, or about 49,000 are at facilities with at least 100 civilian workers. About 22 percent are at locations with 10 to 100 workers, and less than 5 percent are at locations with fewer than 10 workers. For those at the smaller locations, the shift to a 40-hour week should be accompanied by relocation to more concentrated offices or dividing time among two or more locations.

In this period of difficult fiscal times, it is reasonable to require a 40-hour week for City employees. Many similar federal employees have a 40-hour week; workers in other large cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Phoenix and Washington, D.C., have a 40-hour week; nationally, among all state and local government employees, fully 85 percent of the blue-collar workers and 64 percent of the white-collar workers (except teachers) have a 40-hour week. Among private employers in the New York area, the median workw