State Workers Taking Millions In Unused Sick Pay

BOSTON (CBS) — State workers are cashing in on years of unused sick days and it’s costing the state millions.

When Massachusetts Port Authority CEO Tom Kinton stepped down last week after 35 years at the agency, he took $450,000 in unused sick pay with him.

It’s been years since Massport changed its policy of allowing workers to take 100 percent reimbursement for their unused sick time when they retire. But a court ruled they couldn’t make the change retroactive. And there’s no end in sight to this particular perk.

Documents provided to WBZ by Massport under the public records law show Kinton’s windfall is the top of a very large iceberg.

READ: Massport’s Accrued Sick Bank

Four years after Massport changed its policy more than 700 workers hired before 2007 remain eligible for more than $16 million in sick pay if and when they retire from the agency.

Mike Widmer of the business-funded Mass Taxpayers Foundation says this is a classic case of excessive public worker perks that have become unaffordable.

WBZ-TV’s Jon Keller reports.

“The benefits are now off the charts in terms of their value, so it’s become distorted, and it’s a myth now that these benefits are justified because of low pay in the public sector,” he said.

Widmer is warning that more friction is inevitable.

“We now have this big gulf between the citizens who pay taxes and the benefits of the public employees and their benefits. And I don’t think that’s sustainable, politically or financially,” he said.

What of Massport’s new policy paying less for sick time and capping the number of days workers can stockpile? Widmer says “the new policy looks restrained only in comparison to the old one.”

More from Jon Keller
  • William Tessier

    This represents the management and not the rank and file workers. The term State workers is too general a term to use in articles like this. It gives the general public the wrong impression of the status of the non-management employees. The Authorities like Massport or the “T” have different contracts in comparison to either the teachers or the service employees. You should clarify your inorfmation rather than gereralize it before reporting a “sensational” story.

  • Annie

    I wish you would report FAIRLY on all state employees benefits upon retirement, not just Massport and top management. My husband has worked for DMR almost 32 years and will retire next month at age 65. His reward for being dedicated and NOT using his earned sick time except for illness is a balance of 1326.5 hours that he will get at a 20% reimbursement, payable over 3 months time. DO THE MATH. It’s $21,574.20 at .20 for a whopping total of $4,314.84 AFTER 31.5 YEARS OF SERVICE, that he will receive,TAXABLE! That amounts to $132.76 a year. Excessive? I think not! And his rate of pay after 31.5 years, a whopping $16.264 an hour! This gives him a pension of just over $21,000 yearly, just under the federal poverty level for a family of three. He’ll pay federal tax on his pension, another $115.40 for Medicare part B and about $82 monthly for the OME health plan, both MANDATORY! Oh, and let’s not forget the Windfall Elimination Plan . The paltry amount he would get from social security will be reduced by his state pension. He’ll end up with enough social security to pay for his medical. I guess we should be grateful for that. Some state employees don’t have enough quarters to even get that much. The rank and file in human services deserve better than the beating they are taking in the press when you lump ALL state workers together. ALL STATE AGENCIES BENEFITS ARE NOT CREATED EQUALLY! My mother always said”don’t believe anything you hear and only half of what you see”, so I guess that accurately describes the media. Hope you all have a nice day.

    • Bevans

      I have been workfing for over 20 years and do you know how much sick time I get as a payout? ZERO. I use it or lose it. I also do not get a lifetime pension payout either. I also have to pay for my healthcare. I also have to pay for my 401k. I also have to pay for a lot more than you do and I actually have to show up at work to get paid. I don’t have a union representing me and protecting me. I am an employee at will and can be let go without notice. So stop the whoa is me with how much you don’t get and start looking at the things you do get that I never will…a simple thank you for me paying that for you would suffice.

      • Foom

        Get your fax straight before going of on a rant… State workers pay into the pension fund. It is not a “gift”. If they did not have to pay into the fund the could invest the money just like you could, and get about the same payout. They do not get free health insurance, their insurance is subsidized by their employer similarly to most private sector jobs. Most state employees are not unions, just like private sector. Some are… just like private sector. I can go on… So stop the whoa is me with how much you don’t get and start looking at the things you do get that I never will…a simple thank you for me paying that for you would suffice. You know, by buying your products, services, etc. that keep your employers in business.

  • Rosemary Kean

    What kind of reporting is this? Mike Widmer is the only person you have commenting and he is clearly hostile to workers as a representative of the “business-funded Mass Taxpayers Association”. Mr. Widmer is from the side of the aisle that wants “a flexible workforce”. And this means workers who have no bargaining power and will take whatever low pay and poor or non-existent healthcare benefit is thrown their way.

    The terrible benefits in much of the private sector are what make some public sector benefits appear “off the charts”. People like Mr. Widmer are using the current economic hard times as a way to divide and conquer workers.

    Of course this pay out of sick time should be fixed by MassPort management. That’s their job. But put the blame for the state’s budget problems where it belongs- on the casino capitalism of Wall St. and the 4 big banksters, who are now bigger than ever, and on the federal government that throws most of our tax dollars down the rat hole of 2 wars.

    The huge and inspiring rally today of public and private workers, 3 Congressmen, and the Governor in support of Wisconsin public workers at the Massachusetts State House is not on the 11 PM news. Instead we get a one-sided story about sick pay abuse. I guess it’s true that since Channel 4 is controlled by a major corporation, CBS, we get that corporation’s take on labor issues in Massachusetts.

  • Buddy

    I suppose this is all the collective bargaining units fault? Give me a break and all the hard working folks who haven’t abused their sick time. To put it simply these folks potentially saved the state millions upon millions by not calling in sick. If so Overtime would most likely have to been paid out on top of the persons sick time for not going to work.

    Let’s talk about the state reps, congressional leaders, senators who all get gucci pensions, free healthcare for themselves and their spouse at no cost, free gas, free parking every single day, free food, flowers being sent to whomever they want and on and on.

    Why is it always the blue collar worker who is blamed. Get your facts straight and do some better reporting. The polititions in this state and every other are the cause of the budget shortfalls not the folks who go to work each day. I hope a revolution is started just like in Egypt and alsewhere across the world. I would assume this is what it will take for the politicians to listen.

    Oh but we better beware because they wIll most likely dispoSe of us just ike the folks in Waco, TX.

  • taxedout

    I see the unions are well represented here. the private sector pays for the perks you get. the private sector does Not get the perks you get. While I agree the pol’s are killing us, the small amount the unions pay for health has got to change, and like the rest of us, you get a certain amount of sick days every year, (NOT 15) use them or lose them!!!!

    • wayneo

      Hey taxed out too bad apply if you want those perks it ain’t changeing!!

    • KEAN

      Dear Taxed Out- the perks we state workers get could be the perks the private sector gets too. Nobody had better benefits than the auto workers or than today’s trade unions. Read your history! The private sector will take you for all you are worth unless we have a substantial percentage of the workforce unionized. All workers benefit from unions whether they are in one or not. Your pay and benefits, if any, would be less if we had no unions. Get a union for your workplace if you want respect and better wages and benefits. COLLECTIVELY WE BARGAIN, INDIVIDUALLY WE BEG.

  • Rhonda J. Bourne

    As a state employee, I am not condoning the reimbursement of unused sick time. I do not condone people like Billy Bulger and others whose retirment packages seem to be greater than their salaries when they work. People seem to forget that state employees pay taxes as well. many sources of funding go in to running state agencies. it is not simply personal or business taxes. many state agencies create revenue for the state that is out into the general fund and then used to fund the budget.

    I also don’t condone the bandwagon that the media is highlighting and junping on that state employees are overpaid and overcompensated. There are many in the private sector who earn more and many who earn less. The media presents it as if state employees make more than their private sector counterparts and that is not always the case.

    Those of us at the middle to lower end of the strata are being urged to fight with each other rather than sight our sights on the big fish, like corporations, which sadly all media outlets seem to be a part of. WBZ should be ashamed to participate in this coordinated effort to vilify state employees and target them as the source of the fiscal mess this state and country are in.

  • Nab71

    Massport buyback seems out of control, an aberration of the original idea. That being said I have to wonder whether it came about the same way it did in most communities, as a short term fix without any planning for the long term costs. A little investigation into how this type of benefit came about would be helpful. I know in many communities sick leave buy back began in the early 80″s after Proposition 2 1/2 was passed. Communities were adjusting to the limitation in revenue in the face of double digit inflation. Sick leave buyback was pushed by school committees and city management as a way to get through the period by deferring and limiting compensation. Although private sector raises were running 6-8% or more many community workers received little or no raise for two years. The idea was “we’ll make it up to you later.” In most communities this is only paid at retirement.They would ultimately save because they wouldn’t have to pay everyone. The underlying gamble by management was that if employees left or died before retirement, the communities wouldn’t have to pay. Unfortunately, for the communities that didn’t happen and they did little or no planning as to how to pay until the last minute. It wasn’t a problem until large amounts of employees began to retire. For most workers the raise in the early 80’s would have been more helpful than buybacks today, usually under $10,000.
    I know 2 or 3 % more in pay invested over the last 30 years would have been worth more than my buyback after missing a total of 11 days in 36 years.

  • sloopjohnb2

    I beleive that Mr. Widmer’s almost $400,000 a year salary, paid by the Business Community to harass public employees should be cut. He wants everyone to take a pay cut but himself. Shameful!

  • DL

    Massport is a self funded company. Massport does not use taxpayer money to pay it’s employees. Massport employees contribute to their own retirement.
    Get your facts straight and stop lying to the public.

    • BB

      Thank you for setting the record straight!

  • Bob

    I see another tax increase or major reforms for the littleguy state worker, all others are lawyers and will get thiers no matter if we can afford it or not. Thier should be stimulus cash from two years ago that should be utilized and pay off these lawyers and state workers, then tax the ones 90% that make over 6-digits every year sucking off the taxpayers

    • Rhonda J. Bourne

      Perhaps we should do an experiment and stop all state services for one day. I would even be willing to forfeit my pay for that day so that people can see the myriad of necessary functions that state workers perform.

      State workers have been laid off in fairly large numbers, but you never hear about that. I do not consider that I am “sucking off the taxpayers.” I find that offensive and unnecessary to make your point.

      People want more jails, they want mentally ill people in institutions, they get devastated when DCF does not come through for a child and there is a bad outcome, they get angry when they have to stand in line in the registry and wait for their turn, they want the court to run smoothly, they want people on probation/parole to be closely monitored, but they don’t want to pay what those things costs. There is no pay less and get more services. DMH is about to close 160 beds for seriously ill people living with mental illness, DCF will have its budget cut over 10 million in the next three years. There are cuts and there will be more cuts. it might be worthwhile to actually know what services the state provides before you form such a negative opinion.

  • donny

    Sick time should not be reimbursed. It’s called SICK TIME for a reason. Use it or lose it. Otherwise, call it what it is, REIMBURSEMENT FOR NOT GETTING SICK TIME.

    Stay well, everyone.

  • Tweets that mention State Workers Taking Millions In Unused Sick Pay « CBS Boston --

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  • bob from mmalden


  • taxedout

    Perhapes we Should do that experiment your talking about and see what happens. Cops pushing and intimidating people who could use a job so we don’t hire and Flagmen like the Rest of the 49 states. Firemen have to be given a Large Raise so they will relent and give a Blood test. Teaches working 8 months and making 70K or so, 15 sick days, every vacation the kids get and don’t work a full yeqr. Check out what happened in Chelmsford!!!! i get None of these perks, I make half the money and I”m supposed to pay for you people to retire Early while I have to work to maybe 70, and get half the pension you get!!!! You cry and moan when you have to pay even a little more of your health care…No more sick time buy backs, use em or lose em like the rest of us…Time to come into the Real World!!! your un-happy with being crtiqued, get anothe Job!!!

    • Rhonda J. Bourne

      I have no issue with being critiqued. You can say whatever you wish to say. but let;s have what you say be accurate. I don’t believe that unions are always right. I believe in the use of flagmen. Sometimes people’s pay seems way out of whack to me as well. For example “you people to retire early.’ What do you mean retire early? Many teachers unions get to retire with the number of years of service so you can retire young with 80% of your salary and health benefits. In the state, out pension is calculated on both years of service and age, with the weight being on the age. Next year I will be 55 and if I retired with 26 years of service, I would get less than 50%. State, municipal and county employees all have different benefits and retirement plans.

      If you want to see the “real world.” You are welcome to join me any day at an inpatient locked psychiatric unit of the Department of Mental Health. That is the real world.

    • wayneo

      Hey taxed out whens the last time you gave blood at your job!!We will continue to have these benny’s too BAAAAAD!!HA HA It ain’t gonna change!!If you work till your 70 your a bigger idiot that you sound like!!Time for you to look for a new job sap!!

      • dmereh

        You represent what the general public dislikes most about state workers … you act “entitled” “superior” & “better than US” because you think you somehow deserve more than the people paying taxes so you can have better benefits & pay!

  • Dava

    Your station ran this story as if you had just discovered the practice of sick-time buy-back. Are you serious? Are you trying to tell us that you had never heard of this practice before now? I think you have known about this and just decided to drop the torpedo now because the current practice of trashing state employees is sadly in vogue. How disgusting. Your station is not reporting the news, it is creating it- just in time to fan the flames.
    Pure and simple. Channel 4 is not newsworthy! I have switched to NECN – they’re good! Plus I don’t feel like I’m watching corporate and right-wing propaganda.

  • emom

    I think the real issue hear is that the state seems to abuse their benifits. WHICH IS FUNDED BY TAX PAYERS, many in this state are sick of rising taxes, extreme cuts to vital services, , extravagant raises curtisy of the tax payers of the state, Sure there are many state workers that DONT GET THE PERKS the ones on the hill get, Those are the peons, the slaves, hard workers, they get shafted made to work and get noting for ,,,,I KNOW MANY OF THESE STATE workers, sadly they have no extravigant benifits, OG but their bosses, do, and all above them. BUT you go right ahead and beleive what you wish, TRUTH IS politicians and all that work for them are reaping what we sow. we pay , pay , pay and they take raises after rasies, and in order to gain such raises, they will make alll these budget cuts , plead with the white house for funding then take a huge raise and say its owed to them all while the REAL WORKERS SUFFER and only wish to have a raise, and yet BE DENIED A RAISE BECAUSE ITS NOT IN THE BUDGET,,, TRY ASKING SOME OF THOSE HARD WORKING LOW RANKING WORKERS THEN BACK OFF … they abuse the benifits, there is no need to have benifits saved for over 5 years, Every one that I know have never been able to carry any more than 5 sick days over and maybe up to a years worth of vacation time BUT they must use it before they reicieve the next set of benifits times, That is what I had to do could only carry 5 vacation time and we lost all 7 sick days,, so lucky you for having what you have ,, NOBODY ELSE DOES, SELFISH FOOLS.. I AM SICK OF FUNDING YOUR SICK TIME AND VACATION TIME, EARN IT FOR A CHANGE AND USE IT OR LOOSE IT… IDIOTS.AWARDS

  • massman

    taxedout – Excuse my English, but stop being so ignorant. You make approximately $35,000 per year, have no sick days, and no vacation time. Then you want to attack the working class public employees, who are making a better wage with better benefits. So I’m guessing bringing teachers salaries down and cutting their benefits to your wage is the solution. You and the rest of the teabaggers are so warped in your thinking. Let’s further burden the middle class. Were you complaining five years ago, when people were opting to enter the private sector, because that iswhere all the money was to be made? Now when the economy tanks, we go after the little guy, yet I bet your against Wall Street regulation and for extending the Bush tax cuts. If you vote republican, and your stuck in a job making mid 30’s with no benefits, then you’ve dug your own hole. If you’re a megarich CEO, and voted for the GOP, then you’ve made a wise choice. Our wealth distribution is destroying our nation, not our middle class working system.

  • taxedout

    massman: To much Rachael Maddows for you. I didn’t say how much I made, and I pay for the public workers Perks!!!! Why should I pay for 15 sick days for you when I don’t get any??? I am the middle class….My company went belly up and it took quit awhile to get another job that pays half what I used to make. Glad the tax breaks were kept you bet. You sound like your Elitest buddy Kerry. You entitled idiots see nothing wrong wiith fleecing the people that pay your salery. We are tired of it and I’m not alone… Pay your fare share and quit whining!!!!

    • wayneo

      Once again taxed out is blaming everyone because he got laid off and is not qualified or too lazy to get another job with the same money.If you were a go getter you would have a better job than the last one fool!!I get 15 days and i don’t care what you think.If you want the penny back for my bennys that you supposedly pay for NOTTTTTTTTT!!

  • Rhonda J. Bourne

    You seem to be the one who is whining. Sorry for what has happened to you, but state workers are not responsible for your company going belly up. The fiancial mess we are in is caused by people like the Koch Brothers and Wall Street Fat ctas, who earn enough money to scioff at paying thopusands for a shower curtain. tax breaks for the wealty won’t save your job. Sad that you vote against your own self interests. Tax breaks for the wealthy increases the federal debt that everyone is so worried about by billions. How is that going to help you and others like you. Those of us in the middle class need to be looking up to see what is going on, not accross and down. We are fighting over crumbs while those above us are getting lots of cookies.

  • emom

    I understand what taxedeout is saying, when You have a job that has good benifits and pay but all of a sudden the bottom falls out and you become unemployeed and loose it all, well all others with what you had 10 fold is extravigant.. I KNOW HAD THE SAME THING HAPPEN TO ME>> SO EXCUSE ME FOR WHINING. WHA WHAAAA WHAAAA,,, BUT< I LOST ALL THOSE GREAT BENIFITS, AND PAY BECAUSE OF SELFHISNESS OF EXTREMELY OVER PAID EGO MANIACS THAT FEEL THE NEED TO FLEECE THE WORKER BEE'S FOR MORE AND MORE.. Oh I only had 15 days vacation, had to use all up but 5 before the calender year started, had 7 sick days, and if not used YOU LOOSE THEM< and well what I made and brought home after insurance which was very high and taxes well was sickning,,,, laugh all you want its happening to many in this state and state works that make much more than the works are FLEECING THE WORKER BEE'S , I TOO AM SICK OF IT

    • Rhonda J. Bourne

      Sorry, but you are just factually incorrect. In DMH in the case managment Department, every staff person that had been on the job less than 7 years was let go. Staff took 4 furlough days without pay. So many people within the state lost their jobs. In my 25 years, my case load of patients has doubled. That’s fine with me. We are doing more with far less. I am really tired of being told how state workers “fleece” the state. I don’t fleece anyone. I am paid to do a job for which I feel I am well compensated, but not overly conmpensated. I work more that 50 hours per week, but am compensated for 40. I would fine if I was told you lose your sick time after a given period of time. I would love to give up evacuation day and bunker Hill day in exchange for the day after Thanksgiving. State workers also have use or lose time for vacations and personal days. I think your anger is incredibly misdirected and fumed by issues about which you are just simply incorrect. Perhaps it simply makes you feel beter to have a scapegoat.

      I love my job, not becuase of the salary or the benefits. I do ajob where I make a difference everyday in people’s lives, I provide a vital service to the community. if there were not people like myself working on inpatient units for DMH, far more mentally ill would be homeless and unable to function, often getting in to legal problems and annoying/upsetting the community.

  • emom

    There are different levels of state workers, sadley the ones that work, and I MEAN WORK REALLY HARD, physical labor, either in an office or in the field, are grossly under payed, have even less in the beinfit levels, I mean when a HIRE up has company paid car, vacation, sick time and if they dont use their sick time they can cash them in, those are awesome benifits,,, mosT WORKERS do not even see those kinds of benifits, ONLY if you are one of the ones on the hill.. Minus the car still the benifits are great, POINT is anyone that is able to save all their sick time and when they retire or step down cash them in for a very huge chunck of change, well that is extravagant and sorry that is coming out of the works taxes .. how do you think all state employees are paid,, BY THE REAL WORKIERS OF THE STATE YOUR TAXES.. after all that the first thing they raise to say a town job, and state hiring comes from the exces, and when they make all those cutes like he (who shall be nameless) has done,, then they take it as a raise ,,, EXPLAIN THE LOGIC IN TAKING EXCESS TAXES AS A RAISE, HASNT ANYONE HEARD OF PUTTING IT BACK INTO THE SYSTEM AND BANK IT,, GEE THATS WHAT I WOULD HAVE DONE.

  • Curious About Sick Day Buy Backs « CBS Boston

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  • massman

    taxedout – You claimed in an earlier post, that you make half of what the state employees that make $70 grand per year make. That would be $35,000. SO, yes, you did state what you make. I am not a public employee. I am actually an owner of a small construction corporation. My wife is a teacher, who has taught for over a decade. She put herself through school, including two Master’s degrees that were required by the state, within two years of teaching. She started at $22,000 per year while putting herself through school, and over the past 12 years, has maxed her payscale to just under $70,000. I know, what an elitist lazy bum. I would not, by any means call her pay, excessive. I make the equivalent of her, with less education, and far less importance. I believe, in this day and age, there are few professions as important. Education, and higher education specifically, will increase your chances of employment, and greater wealth. One of the only chances, many people have. So, no, I’m not prepared to tell teachers that they’re overcompensated. Do you understand how much the gap between people like you, and people who are millionaires has grown? And you want to continue that trend? I don’t. I want you, me, and all of our children to be able to grow up, work hard, make a comfortable wage, not have to worry about health care, have a comfortable retirement. You want to put more people into your situation, and then blame them, not the people that allow multi billion dollar corporations that squander our money and end up with CEO’s making bonuses that would buy most of Mass. decent healthcare. I’m sure many of them are even healthcare CEO’s. But you keep going after the little guy. The illegal immigrant making $3 per hour cleaning toilets. The teacher making a liveable wage with benefits. You focus your energy on them, and see how much your life improves. Or, you can wake up, and realize that the side you’re on does not have your best financial interest at stake. I’m not saying my side doesn’t have room for improvement. But those tax cuts for the wealthy, were imperative for our economy. We are scaling back any type of growth our country desperately needs, at the expense of tax cuts for the wealthy. All I heard was “jobs, jobs, jobs!” from the right prior to the November elections. I haven’t heard one job creating policy yet. They’re spending plenty of time trying to repeal healthcare reform though. I’m sure when your kid gets sick, and is denied healthcare due to a pre-existing condition, John Boehner will be there to help you out. I just hope that someone on the right will wake up, and many on the left as well.

  • Rhonda J. Bourne

    I don’t know what it would take for many people to realize that many of the beliefs they hold are against their own self interest. Tax breaks for the rich do not trickle down in jobs or money to the middle class and below. it increases the deficit, it does not increase jobs. When large corporations and people of extreme wealth pay less in taxes than people in the middle class something is very wrong. The discrepancy of the haves and have nots in this country is becoming more similar to a third world country. How much monet is enough? How many cars, homes, yachts, etc does anyone need?

  • taxedout

    Wait a minute, didn’t Your president , gov all get elected becasue They were going to create Job???? Remember Shovel ready???? Bugaboo Creek, Evergreen solar, Borders, Genzyne, now Biogen, your not gonna blame that on the Tea Party are you???? I’m with you 100% as to cutting and doing something about the rich, but without tax incentives you think anybody is going to bring a business here??? I worked for a large corp for 35 years and the people at the top left us at the bottom high and dry. What I don’t think is fair that public employees seem to want a raise every year or other year, how many people in the private sector have been getting raises??? 15 sick day’s come on, buy back of those un-used days that the town taxpayers (ME) have to pay, I don’t think so.. As for me being Stuck in a job as you put in that I dug a hole for myself, I worked for many years Off shift and was not giving the oppertunity to go to school, but statrted a family after serving in the Army. I get the feeling you just think that anyone who does not side with you or lucky enough to get a state job or fed job, it’s too bad for them, they made their own bed. hope your business doesn’t go down the tubes because of all the Taxes in this state, but I’m sure you got someone or something to blame if it does!!!

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