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There are 190 full-time Town of Amherst employees who make $29,500 a year or less; 117 of them are woman.

That represents 76 percent of the total number of women town employees, said Councilwoman Penny F. Zeplowitz.

"I think these figures clearly show that females are in the lower end of the pay scale. . . ." she said, adding that 52 of the 117 women are heads of households.

More than 30 persons turned out Wednesday night for a forum held by the town's Equal Pay Commission to get public input on the problem.

For the past few months the Equal Pay Commission has discussed the discrepancies in pay, specifically between a part-time laborer and a part-time clerk.

A town laborer, a job traditionally held by males, is paid more than a part-time clerk, a position traditionally held by women.

Those attending Wednesday's forum said they felt it was time to look at the pay scales for town jobs at all levels.

One woman, who works as a full-time kitchen helper for the Department of Senior Services, said she has to help cook more than 100 meals a day and questioned why her job wouldn't be on the same scale as that of a laborer.

The food preparation requires skill as well as a certain amount of heavy lifting of cans and food from shelves, she said.

"I consider what I do as labor," she said. "I feel I do an awful lot. I would like to see my position and others who are underpaid go up."

Town Personnel Director Patrick R. Pujolas told the audience that historically there has been a difference in pay because Civil Service standards were set years ago, and that is what the commission is attempting to address.

Equal pay among men and woman is not just a town issue but a trend across the United States, Mrs. Zeplowitz added.

About 23 percent of the town's 667 full-time employees are woman, but only one -- Town Clerk Susan J. Grelick -- finished in the top 100 on the town's 1993 payroll.

Tax Receiver Susan K. Jaros, a full-time elected department head -- ranked 269th on the town payroll last year.

The commission Wednesday night showed a proposal that would upgrade the pay scale for part-time clerks and school crossing guards, but emphasized recommendations could not be implemented until adjustments were made for the full-time clerical positions.

Adjustments in the full-time positions will be addressed by collective bargaining between the town and its employees union later this year.

The Equal Pay Commission was established about a year-and-a-half ago to address the apparent differences in the pay among male and female employees, Mrs. Zeplowitz said.

Besides Mrs. Zeplowitz and Pujolas, the commission comprises Councilwomen Lynn Millane, Jane S. Woodward and Peggy Santillo as well as Town Comptroller Donald E. Burkard.

The Equal Pay Commission has met many times during day hours, but Wednesday night was the first time employees were officially invited to ask questions and offer recommendations.

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