New union deal allows state employees to work from home part of the week

The Administrative & Residual Employees Union has reached an interim deal with the state of Connecticut to allow many of its members the ability to work from home part of the week, according to an announcement by A&R and a Frequently Asked Questions page.

According to A&R, the union has been negotiating with the state since passage of the 2017 SEBAC agreement which included a provision to allow workers to telecommute.

“This is a big deal,” A&R wrote on their webpage. “For the first time, most A&R members will be able to work from home and appeal a decision of management to deny telecommuting.”

A&R said the agreement isn’t perfect and they will likely have to go to arbitration to work out more details with the state.

According to the FAQ page, employees can only work while telecommuting and cannot use the time to “care for dependents, work a second job, nap, or fix the faucet in the downstairs bathroom that your wife has been asking you to fix for the past six months and you say that you are going to get to it, but by the time you get home the kids are going to bed and you can’t make any loud noises.”

The employer will have the right to inspect an employee’s telecommuting work space, according to the FAQ. Employee work conducted from home will still be subject to all agency and state rules and guidelines.

Telecommuting will not be available for all employees at this time. Those who require a physical presence at work or receive hazardous duty pensions are excluded from telecommuting, although the union indicates they are “preparing this issue for arbitration.”

According to the FAQ page, “the interim agreement contemplates that employees may be out of the office for up to 50% of the week.” 

Employees will maintain the same benefits and pay when they work from home. Those working a normal five-day work week will be able to telecommute two days per week, while those on a 5/4 schedule can take two days during their five-day work week and one day on their four-day work week.

The telecommuting program began on July 1, 2019, according to the A&R website and after four months each state agency will submit a report to the State-Wide Telework Committee summarizing its experience with the telecommuting program.

The A&R employees union is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the AFL-CIO. A&R represents the P-5 bargaining unit of 3,000 state employees “in over 250 job titles with the majority of A&R employees serving fiscal, accounting, or legal functions,” according to A&R’s website.

Employees will have to apply for the ability to work from home and approval is based on job requirements. However, A&R told its members that “most” of them will be eligible for the program and encouraged all members to apply.

Attachment F of the 2017 SEBAC agreement says that bargaining units “will be offered options for telecommuting consistent with job duties where such is operationally feasible.” 

The SEBAC agreement was negotiated by Gov. Dannel Malloy in 2017 and passed the legislature on a party-line vote. The SEBAC agreement offered bonuses, raises and layoff protections for unionized state employees in exchange for higher healthcare and pension contributions.

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