Vidalia replaces employee holiday bonuses with signing bonus

Published 1:42 am Wednesday, November 15, 2017


VIDALIA —Vidalia aldermen voted unanimously Tuesday to replace the former holiday bonus allotted to town workers.

A holiday bonus is illegal per Louisiana state law.

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In order for the town to provide extra money to an employee, Mayor Buz Craft said, the employee must offer some service in return.

Instead of providing town employees with a bonus, as the aldermen have done in the past, the town will now offer a signing one-time lump sum attached to a contract promising the worker will continue employment with the town for one year.

This signing bonus allots $650 per full-time employee and $200 for part-time employee.

In the event that an employee does not wish to sign the contract, no alternative option is provided as of yet.

Because no one knows exactly how many employees will choose the bonus, Craft said he could not estimate how much money the signing bonuses would cost.

Last year’s holiday bonuses totaled approximately $112,000, but Craft said he expected the total to be less this year.

One member of the crowd questioned the continuance of a legal holiday bonus option when only a small margin exists between the town’s expenditures and revenue.

Neither last year’s bonus amount nor any other funds were allotted in this year’s town budget for a bonus-replacement, a fact with which Alderwoman Sabrina Dore took issue.

“I agree that the employees need the payment,” Dore said. “We’re not happy with the fact that it was not included in the budget. In my opinion that was a sacrifice that was made to reduce the budget at the expense of the hardworking employees.”

This was one of the last opportunities for aldermen to provide a holiday bonus replacement, Alderman Robert Gardner said, since bonuses traditionally were mailed before Thanksgiving in order to provide workers with money to shop on Black Friday.

Despite the unanimous vote, aldermen were less than unified on the issue.

One of the original ideas, Alderman Tommy Probst said, was to provide a raise that would equal the amount of a holiday bonus distributed evenly across the employee’s payment cycle.

Probst said this option would allow the additional money to add to retirement funds and provide the workers with more money year round, instead of a lump sum once per year.

Craft said the raise option was only considered before he was aware of the contract bonus option.

Dore said she did not like the idea of contractually forcing employees to remain in the town for a year in order to receive funds workers have come to expect.

“To make them sign something that says I’m going to stay with you for another year in order to get the money you have always gotten, I don’t think we need to impose this on them,” Dore said.

Dore asked the audience, in which were several town employees, if any of them objected to the contract option. No one objected.

Gardner called for consensus among the aldermen and alderwoman, saying the workers have come to count on money provided during the holidays, and it was unfair to deprive them of it.

“I know employees who have been working 20 years for a city,” Gardner said. “They’ve received a bonus every year. For us not to give them the bonus they look forward to every year to care for their families, that bothers me.”