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West Allis workers can cash in on good ideas

City expands incentive program for worthwhile suggestions

Sept. 10, 2013

West Allis — Believing that those doing jobs have the best insights on how to do them better, the city has expanded its employee performance allowance program that gives incentives to creative thinking.

The expansion sets aside $5,000 a year to reward mainly money-saving suggestions from former labor union employees. Since the state's passage of Act 10, which reduced the power of most public employee unions, the only unions left in the city are police and fire.

The city has had a performance allowances program for nonunion employees for some time and it has saved the city a lot of money, said West Allis Mayor Dan Devine, who advocated for a similar program for former union employees.

Innovative suggestions

One suggestion made in 2009 has saved the city more than $14,000 a year ever since, Devine said. The employee who made the suggestion received $1,250.

Not all the $5,000 for suggestions by former union employees has to be given out, and the amounts awarded will depend partly on how many winners there are, Devine said.

"If somebody really hits a home run with something, we can give a little more. Or if two people have good suggestions we can give more," he said.

The last time the city gave performance awards in the nonunion program was March 2012, when seven people shared $475. Two received $100 and the rest received lesser amounts, Devine said.

Not all the winners have to save money, however. A performance award was given to the employee who suggested the use of rubber deflectors to keep snow and ice from flying onto the windshield of snowplows, he said. The improvement has meant plow drivers can see better.

Another suggestion that the city implemented was installing lifts so that garbage trucks could pick up trash receptacles more easily, with less damage and less risk of injury, Devine said.

Incentives process

"Predominantly, it's another incentive for people to be creative and start to look at new ways of doing things," Devine said. "It brings creativity into the process."

"I think it makes sense," said Alderman Michael May, who joined the unanimous Common Council vote for the incentives. "It has worked in Wauwatosa."

In West Allis, department heads will nominate employees on the basis of cost savings, innovative or creative ways of doing things, implementation of major administrative efficiencies and elimination or reduction of waste and improvement to services.

A review/evaluation team will decide if there will be any winners and will establish amounts of awards. The team will include the mayor, Common Council president, city administrative officer, clerk/treasurer, finance manager and the human resources manager.

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