State Workers' Hours Extended

March 13, 1991|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,Evening Sun Staff

A story in yesterday's Evening Sun said state workers scheduled to work a 35.5-hour week receive premium pay for work beyond 35.5 hours. The workers in fact receive pay at a straight-time rate for work up to 40 hours and time-and-a-half pay after 40 hours. The Evening Sun regrets the error.

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Gov. William Donald Schaefer has quietly re-issued an executive order lengthening the workweek for state employees, news of which surprised many lawmakers and union leaders who thought the matter was still under study.

Schaefer issued the order Feb. 27, without notifying the unions, legislators involved with the issue or even some members of his own administration.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

Opponents of the measure contend the order is inconsistent with Schaefer's vow to examine the matter before taking action. The governor's aides say the order, which will lengthen from 35.5 40 hours the standard workweek for thousands of state employees on July 1, does match the governor's stated intentions.

"It was an implementation of a policy that was already expressed," said Daryl C. Plevy, an aide to the governor. "It is surprising only to people who misunderstood what he said."

Schaefer first issued an order lengthening the workweek Jan. 8, saying it would increase productivity and save the state money during its budget crunch. The employee's unions disputed that claim, saying it would not save money and would be a hardship for the workers.

On Feb. 6, the day the longer workweeks were supposed to take effect, Schaefer temporarily reversed himself, saying the longer schedules would not be implemented before at least July 1, the beginning of a new fiscal year.

"On July 1st, we may invoke the 40-hour week. We'll see. We may do a number of things," Schaefer said at a Feb. 6 news conference.

"We will eventually go to the 40-hour week in a period of time, but we will give more thought to it," he said. He vowed to meet with legislators involved on the issue.

Two of the lawmakers Schaefer mentioned by name -- Del. James C. Rosapepe, D-Prince George's, and Sen. Mary Boergers, D-Montgomery -- said they learned only in the last week that the order had been re-implemented.

"I was surprised. We had been in communication with the governor's office. Sometimes the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing," said Boergers, who has submitted legislation to preserve the 35.5-hour week.

Del. Clarence Davis, D-City, the author of similar legislation in the House, said he learned of the new order yesterday.

"It was my understanding that he would do a study. . . . It seems as though we are not putting a lot of thought into our decisions," Davis said.

However, there is significant opposition to overturning Schaefer's order and the bills by Boergers and Davis are viewed by many as long shots. Legislative leaders, including House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr., D-Eastern Shore, and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's, both support the 40-hour week as an alternative to layoffs. The budget passed by the House and now being considered by the Senate assumes productivity gains based on a 40-hour week.

But Bill Bollander, executive director of Council 92 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said he intends to continue trying to persuade the governor to change his mind on the longer workweek.

"We still have plenty of time before July. I don't know if the executive order makes all that big a difference," Bollander said.

In an appearance at a House committee on Feb. 7, the day after Schaefer delayed the schedule change, Personnel Secretary Hilda Ford made it clear that the 40-hour week was tentatively scheduled to take effect July 1.

However, on Feb. 21, six days before the new order was signed, Ford said the governor had asked her to convene a task force to explore productivity issues, including the longer workweek and layoff procedures.

Ford did not respond to telephone calls from The Evening Sun.

Plevy, who has been closely involved with the issue for the governor's office, said she learned of the order a few days ago but assumed all along that the longer weeks would begin July 1. Some matters of implementation are still under discussion, she said.

The unions dispute the administration's claims that money would be saved and say their members should be compensated for the extra work. Schaefer's staff, however, says millions could be pared from the budget by eliminating overtime and the need for additional hires.

Under a policy that dates to before World War II, about two-thirds of the state's 65,000 workers put in 35.5-hour weeks. They are paid premium pay for work beyond 35.5 hours. The other third of the work force, police and those who staff hospitals, prisons and other institutions open round the clock, work 40 hours.

Sue Esty, with AFSCME, said, "We're really disappointed. The governor seemed to indicate he would reconsider. He said he was going to study it and then he didn't."

Lance Cornine, executive director of the rival Maryland Classified Employees Association, said, "My concern is you sit with them and they tell you one thing and it turns out they are doing something else."

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