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February 15, 2024

Snow day puts Lamont, CT employee unions at odds over telework

ERICA E. PHILLIPS / CT MIRROR The Connecticut state Capitol.

Tuesday’s snowstorm intensified an ongoing dispute over teleworking rules between Gov. Ned Lamont’s administration and unionized workers.

The State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition, which represents more than 40,000 workers across nearly all state agencies, announced it would file a grievance over a Lamont directive Tuesday that staff who could perform work remotely “should telework,” or else utilize accrued time off, such as personal or compensatory days.

The administration did not comment on a pending legal matter, but House Minority Leader Vincent J. Candelora, R-North Branford, said Wednesday state teleworking policies are too loose and need reform.

At issue is Connecticut’s teleworking policy for employees with a hybrid schedule, working some days on site and others remotely.

Hybrid employees who were scheduled to work remotely during Tuesday’s storm were required to do so, the coalition says. But SEBAC also said hybrid employees who were scheduled to work on-site Tuesday should not have been compelled to work remotely or otherwise expend accrued time off. 

Those employees, the coalition says, must be treated like all staff who normally work on-site all the time. Those on-site workers effectively received Tuesday as a paid day off. 

The rationale behind this provision, according to labor, is that the state recognizes workers might be forced during extreme weather to care for children — as child care centers would likely be closed — or assist other family members in need.

SEBAC insists the governor cannot redirect hybrid workers who had been scheduled to work onsite to pivot and work remotely or otherwise expend accrued time off.

A disagreement over this policy prompted a SEBAC grievance last year, and the coalition added in a memo to its members Tuesday that “we will be filing another grievance based on this most recent directive, and we will seek to recover the time.”

The coalition also urged its members, until the legal matter is resolved, not to ignore the governor’s directive.

Chris Collibee, spokesman for Lamont’s budget office, said the administration’s policy is not to comment on grievances pending arbitration.

But Candelora said his caucus believes the state has given too much flexibility for teleworking since the pandemic began and is developing legislation to reform the system.

“I wish our state workers would work as hard for our state taxpayers as they do in trying to get out from their jobs,” he said.

Candelora said the state should be able to compel all workers with teleworking capacity to work remotely during weather emergencies.

The minority leader also said he believes most state agencies don’t have adequate systems in place to assess the productivity of staff who work some or all of their schedules remotely.

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