The Portland City Council on Monday delayed until May 6 a final vote on whether to adopt an earned paid sick leave ordinance.

Belinda Ray, chairwoman of the City Council’s Health and Human Services Committee, said the decision should be postponed until Councilor Pious Ali is able to participate. Ali was unable to attend Monday night’s meeting.

“The intention is to postpone our vote until a future date so that we have full council participation,” Ray explained to the audience that packed the City Hall council chambers.

Portland could become the first municipality in Maine to adopt such a requirement. Monday’s meeting comes after the  committee voted unanimously in February to recommend passage.

The committee spent nearly 15 months examining ordinances from other cities and states, talking with local constituents and businesses, and holding two public hearings.

Over the past 12 years, 47 municipalities, counties and states across the country have enacted earned paid sick leave, according to language in the proposal presented to the council Monday.

Portland’s ordinance would require all employers with a physical location in Portland to allow their employees working in the city – with some exceptions – to accrue a minimum of one hour of earned paid sick time for every 30 hours worked. Employees would begin earning paid sick time on their first day of employment.

Employees would be eligible to use up to 40 hours of accrued time annually. Businesses of all sizes would be covered by the ordinance, as would all employees who work at least 120 hours annually for an employer, regardless of whether they are full time, part-time or seasonal workers.

The ordinance would take effect six months from the date it is approved.

Supporters Monday argued that paid sick leave promotes healthier workplaces, improves employee morale and benefits lower income Mainers – a group that would no longer fear losing a paycheck or job for staying home sick or caring for an ill child.

Several speakers urged the council to wait until the Maine Legislature votes on L.D. 369, which would require all Maine employers with more than five workers to allow full- and part-time workers to accrue sick days based on the number of hours they work.

“It makes no sense whatsoever for Portland to have a policy that differs from a statewide policy,” said Curtis Picard of the Retail Association of Maine.

The proposed state legislation, filed by Sen. Rebecca Millett, D-Cape Elizabeth, is currently under review by the Legislature and could be acted on this week.

The Maine Chamber of Commerce has opposed the state bill, arguing that the impact on businesses will be too great, especially in light of rising insurance costs and mandated minimum wage increases.

Several who attended Monday urged councilors to pass the city ordinance.

“The time to act is now. Don’t wait for the state to act,” said Jason Shedlock, speaking for the Maine State Building and Construction Trades Council. “This city has shown that we are a compassionate city. I think it’s time to act.”

Shedlock said his organization, which represents 5,000 workers, supports the ordinance.

Mia Dyson, a nurse and member of the Southern Maine Workers Center, said she supports the ordinance because, “It’s the right thing to do for our most vulnerable population.”

Some Portland companies have argued that paid sick leave will only undercut local employers’ more-generous benefit packages.

Chief executive officers of five of Portland’s largest employers including Unum, Northern Light Mercy Hospital, and the MEMIC Group wrote a letter to the Portland Press Herald last week saying they already provide generous paid leave benefits to employees.

The companies decided to make their concerns public because they said the new city ordinance would force them to “take away flexible paid time off benefits that are currently enjoyed by our employees in favor of more restrictive and mandatory paid sick time.”

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

[email protected]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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