PEF/encon wishes to thank our members who responded to our request for comments on management's proposed policy concerning work schedules.  Our memo would not have been possible without this valuable input.

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Note: At the June 29, 2005 LM meeting, Asst. Commissioner Jack McKeon stated that the proposed Work Schedule Changes are currently on hold.  In particular, employees with start times before 7:30 A.M. may continue with that schedule.

 

To: Acting Commissioner Denise Sheehan

From: Mike Keenan, PEF/encon Division Leader

Subj.: Work Schedules

Date: May 12, 2005

 

PEF/encon wishes to thank you and Assistant Commissioner Jack McKeon for attending

our March LM meeting. We appreciate your offer to meet and discuss the issue of Work

Schedules, as it is of high concern and interest to our members. To aid in analyzing the

numerous responses that we received from our members concerning this issue, we formed a

committee. Our committee members, Holly Clark, RoseAnn Garry, Diane Kulzer, Toni

Norfleet, and myself, are available to meet with you at your convenience.

 

Informal surveys by PEF/encon indicate that approximately 10% of current DEC staff

have start times before 7:30 A.M.. The varied benefits identified may be categorized as follows:

• Consistency with DEC’s Mission

• Recognition of the Professionalism of DEC staff

• Consideration of the Personal Responsibilities of DEC staff

• Environmental and Safety Considerations

• Job Recruitment, Retention and Morale.

 

Consistency with DEC’s Mission: The mission of the department, as stated in Section 1-0101 of

the New York State Environmental Conservation Law, is to "conserve, improve, and protect its

natural resources and environment, and control water, land and air pollution, in order to enhance

the health, safety and welfare of the people of the state and their overall economic and social

well being." Staggered start times over the widest range possible (7:00 A.M. and earlier) allows

for a reduction in traffic congestion - thus reducing air emissions and fuel usage. DEC should

act as a role model and practice what it recommends others do in State Implementation Plans.

 

In addition, current staff who start before 7:30 provide necessary coverage for

responding to incidents, questions and/or concerns from the public, commercial enterprises and

other agencies. Many industries, such as asphalt plants, landfills, waste treatment and transfer

stations, generate citizens’ complaints earlier than 7:30 A.M. For instance, NY State has

thousands of waste management facilities that have a significant potential to negatively impact

public health, safety and the environment. A resident can quickly become irate when their

complaint call is answered by a machine and not a person. The earlier DEC has staff available,

the better the citizens of New York are served. Protecting the environment is not just an 8:30 to

4:45 office activity.

 

Recognition of the Professionalism of DEC Staff: Staff has been recognized by the Department

in a number of ways for their professionalism in carrying out DEC’s Mission. At the recent

Albany dialogue then Commissioner Erin Crotty noted the professional commitment of staff to

protecting the natural resources of NY State. Not only does removing the option of a 7:00 A.M.

start time imply a distrust of the staff by management, it also contradicts the effective and

efficient work this Department has accomplished over the many years that an early start time has

been practiced. Current work schedules and practices accommodate the Department’s needs,

while respecting the employee’s professionalism and family responsibilities.

 

Consideration of the Personal Responsibilities of DEC Staff: Many employees maintain a start

time before 7:30 A.M. to accommodate child care, elder care and other dependant care

responsibilities. For those who are single parents, those who deal with difficult spousal work

schedules, and those whose children may require more than the normal amount of attention or

supervision, this need is especially important. Many of these employees have already worked

out a schedule that allows them to perform needed high-priority duties in their personal lives

while still being fully contributing staff members at DEC. For example, a start time before 7:30

A.M. allows some parents the ability to be home when school is over. It also provides the ability

to make medical appointments, etc., later in the afternoon without the necessity of using leave

credits. An early start time is critically important not only to a single parent and those with

ailing or elderly relatives, but also to dual working families who currently are able to have one

parent work early, while the other works a later shift.

 

There are other personal situations which can best be accommodated by an early start

time. For example, observant Jews must leave work early on Fridays to make it home before

sundown, the start of the Sabbath. Likewise, Fridays are the holiest days of the week for

observant Muslims, who must attend extra prayer services and perform other charitable and

community services on that day. Work schedules that accommodate these needs also benefit

DEC, since a full day of work is achieved because activities necessitated by personal

responsibilities are undertaken outside of the employee’s work hours.

 

Environmental and Safety Considerations: DEC’s State Implementation Plans encourage various

alternate work schedules to achieve one of two goals; either eliminating a vehicle trip altogether,

or having it occur outside of the rush hour travel periods. PEF/encon received comments from

members throughout the State that due to logistics the current participation of a DEC employee

in a car pool with a non-DEC employed spouse or neighbor(s) depends upon the ability to start

before 7:30 A.M. A later start time will require that the DEC employee travel to work alone.

Public transportation is also less crowded, more dependable, and provides faster service earlier

in the day.

 

Commuting outside of the morning or evening rush hours takes less time and fuel. Stop

and go traffic, as well as the seesawing of vehicle speed, waste fuel and increase emissions. The

optimum travel characteristic to conserve fuel and minimize emissions is a constant speed above

20 MPH. The personal safety of staff, as well as the general public, is also directly affected.

Free flowing traffic is much less stressful. Traveling during non-congested periods and walking

from parking and/or transportation points during daylight hours greatly reduces the risk of

personal harm. It also minimizes having a logjam of cars trying to park or leave for home, while

pedestrians are trying to walk across the same streets.

 

Job Recruitment, Retention and Morale: The Preamble of Executive Order 68 is "Agencies of

government must constantly seek to maximize productivity of operations and the quality of

services provided to the people of the State, and at the same time, enhance employment

opportunities for qualified persons unable to obtain employment under conventional work

schedules." It is State policy "to encourage and promote the implementation of alternate work

schedules" to:

• "provide increased availability of public service . . . ";

• "increase the number and caliber of individuals available for recruitment into State services"; and

• "increase employee morale and reduce absenteeism . . . "

At our March LM meeting, you expressed interest in expanding the diversity of DEC’s work

force. Allowing start times before 7:30 A.M. is consistent with this goal.

 

The juxtaposition of DEC needing a DOB waiver to promote DEC employees, while not

needing a DOB waiver for the use of contractors in lieu of DEC civil servants, has caused a

serious backlog on numerous promotional lists. In addition, state salaries have not kept pace

with the high cost of living. Because of these factors, as well as other individual circumstances,

some DEC employees, particularly in the lower grades, have outside employment. Starting

times before 7:30 A.M. can accommodate employees with this economic need, while not

impinging on their ability to work a full day for DEC. Also as noted above, it allows many

parents the ability to work a full day, while accommodating family needs and minimizing the

costliness of daycare, etc.

 

Staff perform a number of tasks that often require starting early, from maximizing

daylight hours for field work to accommodating various stakeholders’ schedules for meetings

and training sessions. Requiring staff to maintain an early start time to perform monitoring

and/or investigative tasks part of the year and then shift to a later start time for the rest of the

year only adds a layer of complexity to providing for child care, elder care and other dependant

care, or outside employment. These arrangements generally require a pre-set time of coverage

throughout the year. Adding the burden of alternating scheduling times throughout the year is

neither warranted nor welcomed by those potentially affected.

 

Summary: Most DEC employees are self-directed and decide when extra or odd hours are

needed to get a job done right. Many supervisors understand this and believe that what is

important is that the employee effectively performs the job and works the appropriate hours.

The March 7th memo and the draft policy will negate these mutually beneficial arrangements by

restricting the ability of supervisors to allow flexibility and increasing the approval process and

documentation surrounding schedules. The more difficult it is to adjust schedules to meet

program needs, the less willing staff will be to do it.

 

In addition, the proposed loss of flexibility between a supervisor and employee to modify

work hours for occasional circumstances (e.g., staying late due to an unforeseen late arrival) will

also negatively affect DEC because less work will be accomplished. Restricting "individualized

work schedules" to unusual circumstances of a short duration goes in the opposite direction that

private employers have been offering for years. Many managers now realize that flexibility is a

necessity of modern life and offer multiple ways to accommodate work and employee needs. It

also contravenes the sentiments expressed at the SEEDS sessions that DEC needs less micromanagement.

 

PEF/encon’s survey of its members found no instances where there was no staff coverage

in the late afternoon. We believe the concern over lack of staff coverage after 3:30 P.M. may be

attributable to other causal factors, rather than early starts. In particular, DEC needs more staff

to effectively carry out its mission, regardless of the time of day. The loss of more than 300

senior employees in 2003 removed a lot of institutional memory and expertise. In many

instances, DEC now has a single employee knowledgeable in a particular field of expertise.

When that employee is on leave or in the field, our ability to quickly address an issue is severely

limited.

 

Having employees available on widely staggered work schedules increases our ability to

get work done throughout the workday. Having at least some staff available early while others

work a later shift can make the difference between having work done and material prepared on

time for morning meetings, short deadlines, etc. or not. In short, work schedules of this type

have provided benefits to the agency as well as to the employee.

 

Finally, PEF/encon also believes that certain managers are reluctant to openly deal with

an employee who requires more direct supervision. That is, entire sections, bureaus and

sometimes even divisions are subjected to blanket prohibitions and restrictions, in lieu of a

supervisor counseling an employee on an individual basis. Thus, dedicated employees are

broad-brushed with unnecessary and counter productive policies.

 

PEF/encon looks forward to meeting with you and discussing this further. It is our belief

that we can offer you a perspective that the supervisory chain of command cannot offer.

 

CC: Assistant Commissioner Jack McKeon

Director of Management & Budget Nancy Lussier

Director of Employee Relations Joe Lattanzio

Director of Personnel Carol LaVigna

PEF/encon Stewards

 

 

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Last Updated on November 29, 2016