SOUTH ORANGE, NJ – Labor Day is one of 15 paid holidays for village employees, and trustees are considering how to reduce the number.

In the private sector, according to members of the village’s Board of Trustees, workers get seven or eight paid holidays a year. In an effort mirror the private sector and increase productivity, village trustees have discussed reducing the number of paid holidays.

“Our objective is that we’re moving more towards the private world; this is only one step towards a lot of other changes we’d like to see,” Trustee Howard Levison said. He mentioned pay increases based on on performance as another of the changes.

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According to Levison, village Administrator Barry Lewis Jr. will discuss the number of paid holidays with non-contractual employees, including which ones to reduce.

Trustee Michael Goldberg said, “We’ve been talking about reducing the number each year by one or two a year for the non-contractual employees and then having the contractual employees follow suit to eventually get to a reasonable number.”

Levison said it would be easier to make changes for employees not covered under union contracts. “The way we were approaching it, we would first like to do it with our non-contractuals, where it’s something that we can set by policy,” he said.

Goldberg said he expects such a move would meet with resistance. “Historically, it’s always difficult to take things away from people, because people feel entitled and have these extra days off for years and someone’s asked to work an extra week a year and not get paid more for it, it hurts,” he said. “I get that.”

Levison said that any change to paid holidays would affect the police and fire departments. “The way their salaries are calculated, they take the number of holidays and build it into the base pay and they work the holidays,” he explained. “By reducing the number of holidays, we’d be reducing their base pay.”

Eliminating some holidays would not significantly affect the budget, according to Goldberg. “People that are getting paid not to work — if we were to change the schedule, we would pay for them to work,” he said.

Goldberg and Levison said reducing the number of holidays would increase productivity.  “It doesn’t change the financials, but it certainly changes the productivity: people would be working an extra week a year,” Goldberg said. “That’s a big difference. It’s significant.”

Levison said he hopes the changes could be put into effect by Jan. 1, 2013.

In addition to the seven nationally celebrated holidays, such as New Year’s Day and Christmas, village employees have Lincoln’s Birthday, Good Friday, Election Day, Christmas Eve and Black Friday off.

The reporter is participating in a hyperlocal journalism partnership between The Alternative Press and Seton Hall University's Department of Communication & The Arts.