Contract Extension Signed

A&R has entered into a contract extension agreement with the State, ensuring the contract remains valid beyond the expiration date (which is today).  Click here to view the Contract Extension.  The extension runs through July 1, 2022, or until a successor contract is approved by the Legislature.  In essence, all aspects of the contract remain in force, the notable exceptions being the prohibition against contracting out (which should not be viewed as unusual), MOU VIII (snowday procedures), and member access to professional development and tuition reimbursement funds.  Please continue to submit tuition/prof development reimbursement requests realizing that we need to negotiate for retroactive funding.  Top step payments are part of the salary and therefore we expect that they will be paid in January as normal.  Future increments will need to be negotiated and therefore will not occur under this contract extension and A&R will pursue retroactivity as appropriate.  

It is too early to tell if we will have a settled contract to bring for a membership vote, or if we will need to seek an arbitration award that is binding on both parties.  Both parties have presented their suggested changes to the contract language and we have held 9 bargaining sessions with the State with no major areas of dispute to report, the possible exception being telecommuting language.  The number of meetings has risen above the threshold needed to declare impasse, but we continue to discuss the proposals as the discussions have been fruitful and honest. Initial financial proposal packages have been exchanged.  The initial proposals are starting points for further discussions.  However, as of today (July 1, 2021) substantive discussions regarding wages have not yet taken place.  So we have four meetings scheduled for July and we will continue to discuss language changes in areas such as service ratings, the reclass process, and Temporary Service in a Higher Class, along with the various other proposals, with both parties preparing to discuss potential financial packages.

7/1/21

Telework and the Big Lie

View the Transitional Telework Agreement

The Office of Policy and Management issued a Clarification of the Transitional Telework Agreement, dated June 28, 2021.  A&R leadership takes issue with several aspects of the so called clarification.  Most notably, the clarification does not accurately reflect the language of the Agreement, nor does it reflect the intent of the parties when the Agreement was entered into.  The discrepancies between what was negotiated, the terms of the Agreement, and the subsequent Clarification memo are so egregious that we consider the Clarification memo to be perpetuating what we are referring to as The Big Lie. 

THE BIG LIE: “The agreement allows for the granting of telework greater than 50% and was intended to address such unique circumstances at the discretion of the agency head that require a higher level of teleworking including but not limited to inadequate social distancing space for agency’s that have temporarily increased staffing for pandemic programmatic responses (i.e. Department of Housing and Department of Labor).”

The above language is quoted directly from the Clarification memo.  However, the above statement in no way is reflective of the explicitly stated intent of the parties when we entered into the Agreement.  The language of the Agreement is quite clear: “employees can apply for more than 50% when consistent with job duties and operational needs, but typically not to exceed 80%.”  Nowhere in the Agreement are references to “unique circumstances” made.  Nor should there be – for at no time did the parties discuss establishing “unique circumstances” as the threshold needed to warrant telecommuting above 50%.  Job duties, along with agency operating needs are the controlling factors to be considered when reviewing a request for more than 50% telework.  That is not just our opinion – it is the language of the Agreement, and worth repeating: “employees can apply for more than 50% when consistent with job duties and operational needs, but typically not to exceed 80%”.

A&R leadership is committed to firmly establishing telecommuting, and will insist on strict adherence to the Agreement.  The unions of SEBAC will be filing an unfair labor practice charge and pursuing injunctive relief from the bad faith bargaining.    

OUR RECOMMENDATIONS TO A&R EMPLOYEES:

  • Use this portal to submit your request for Telework.
  • Select a schedule that is reasonable and consistent with your job duties and operational needs; regardless of any agency desire to limit you to only 50% Telework.
  • Submit the request even if your agency has not distributed the form to you yet.
  • July 1: if your agency is directing you to report to the office on July 1, please do so. If the agency is not saying that, then follow the agreement which states that your current telework schedule stays in place until you receive a determination on your Telework Request. 
  • If your Telework Request is denied, then you can discuss an alternate schedule with your supervisor and file an appeal
  • If you wish to appeal a denial, use this email link and provide us with the below information.
    • Your name
    • Agency, unit, job title
    • Personal phone #
    • Non-state email address
    • Your requested schedule
    • Your denial form from the agency

Keep in mind that, pending a determination on your "new" request, you will continue using your "current" telework arrangement..."current" means your schedule prior to May 13th.  While the appeal process is on-going, your schedule will be whatever you and your supervisor can find agreeable (with a minimum of 50%).

BELOW ARE SOME OF THE MAJOR ISSUES WITH THE Q&A

While we can pick out many other issues within the Q&A, we have focused in on a few of the larger, more egregious misstatements below.   These are not minor discrepancies, these are statements which are inconsistent with the signed agreement.

3. Q:  What employees are covered by the TTA?

A:  The Transition Agreement applies to those employees who have successfully teleworked during that past 14 months.  This includes employees who consistently and steadily participated in some level of telework prior to May 13, 2021 in response to the COVID 19 pandemic. It does not apply to those who were given alternate assignments to get through the pandemic.  It does not apply to those who have had a steady in-office presence prior to the Governor’s May 13 announcement, including those in front-facing customer service operations.  It does not apply to those in hazardous duty covered positions.  Agencies are not obligated under the TTA to afford telework to new employees hired after June 17, 2021; that said, an agency is not precluded from granting telework schedules to new employees for the period specifically covered by the TTA.

The above “Answer”  is misleading, anyone can be granted telework beyond July 1, 2021, except Hazardous Duty employees.

 

4. Q:  The TTA provides that based upon operational need employees can automatically be granted a 50% telework schedule.  What if this does not meet operational need?

A:  Then the schedule should be adjusted consistent with the Agency’s operational need. The operational need cannot simply be based upon a distrust about whether employees are really working.  That is a performance issue and it should be addressed as such.

The above is misleading, for those seeking to continue teleworking, upon request, 50% is mandatory

 

5. Q:  Can employees request to telework more than 50% of the biweekly payperiod?

A:  Agency heads may authorize telework for more than 50% of the biweekly pay period, but typically, the maximum allowable telework time under the TTA is 80% of the biweekly schedule when it is consistent with operational need and due to social distancing requirements that cannot be accommodated in existing work space.  

This is false.  The “up to 80%” threshold is not at all related to social distancing.  It is simply just acceptable and should be granted when consistent with job duties and operationally feasible.  Any request above 50% which is denied is eligible for an appeal to a facilitator.

 

6. Q:  If employees’ productivity has improved while teleworking, and we want to keep that momentum going, can we allow employees to telework 100% of the time?

A:  That option is not sanctioned by the TTA, but such things as available space may require other measures.  Employees can be granted telework for greater than 50% of the biweekly pay period, under specific personal circumstances. For example, the employee may need to provide support to an ill or infirm family member, and the Agency may need that employee to continue to work through the ongoing pandemic period.  Granting an employee’s request to continue teleworking at greater than 50%, in such situations, may be in the interests of the employer and the employee rather than mandating the employee use sick leave and not work.  Such a temporary arrangement would be within the discretion of the Agency Head and must be consistent with job duties, productivity and operational need.

This is the most false statement in this document, >50% is NOT limited to “specific personal circumstances”.  We have no idea, where anyone got this idea by reading the signed agreement, it couldn’t be more inaccurate than it is.   No exceptional circumstances are required to be granted more than 50% Telework.  The accurate standard is that up to 80% should be approved when consistent with job duties and operationally feasible.  Even 80%-100% may be approved but will be atypical.

New Temporary Telework Agreement

- UPDATED 6/28 -

Link:  Telework Transition Request Form

The official Telework Transition Request Form is linked above.  Anyone who wishes to continue to Telework should complete/submit this form even if you have already received approval for your requested schedule (it's a record-keeping thing). 

A couple of items to clarify:

If you are on a 5/4 schedule, please indicate on the form in Item 12 "Other", that you wish to continue your 5/4 schedule.

If your request is based on an ADA accomodation, please indicate "Medical Request" in Item 12 "Other"...do not submit any actual medical information on this form.

If your request is denied, you can discuss with your supervisor an alternate schedule which would be acceptable (e.g.- requesting fewer or different days)...this will not impact your ability to appeal the denial.

If you wish to appeal a denial, use this email link and provide us with the below information. 

  1. Your name
  2. Agency, unit, job title
  3. Personal phone #
  4. Non-state email address
  5. Your requested schedule
  6. Your denial form from the agency

Keep in mind, that pending a determination on your "new" request, you will continue using your "current" telework arrangement..."current" means your schedule prior to May 13th.

 

- UPDATED 6/24 -

View the Transitional Telework Agreement

The official Request Form referenced in the agreement has not been released as of today.  We are advising that anyone wishing to request a schedule above 50% to either do so using a compatible form already circulated by your agency or make the request to your supervisor via email...once the official Request Form is released, please follow-up utilizing the official form.  Remember, if you are already doing 50% telework you will automatically qualify for continued 50% telework, if you are exceeding 50% you may request to continue telework up to 100%.  When operationally feasible, 50%-80% telework will be generally acceptable.


With the Governor's July 1st deadline to return to operations under the existing telework agreements, A&R, with the other Unions of SEBAC, have been in active negotiations to make the agreement reflect what we have learned over the past fifteen months -- telework works. 

Under the new agreement, if you have been teleworking regularly during the pandemic, you can continue to do so for at least up to 50% of the pay period.  The agreement guarantees 50% of a biweekly period shall be automatically granted upon request of the employee (for employees who were able to do so during the pandemic period).  The agreement allows for employees to request more than 50%, when consistent with operational needs, but typically not to exceed 80%.

Agencies must also provide "flexible scheduling for members consistent with business and operational needs." 

The agreement also recognizes that, while Connecticut is doing very well in combating this pandemic, it is not over yet, and it impacts everyone differently. Members who are "COVID-fragile" and have a doctor's note indicating that returning to the office would present a health risk may continue their current telework arrangement. Those that live with a "COVID fragile" family member can similarly continue their current telework arrangement (apply using FMLA P-33B form).

The agreement also provides that an employee keeps their current Telework schedule pending a response by the employer to the newest telework request.

State service seniority will control where there are conflicts in requests.

A universal registration form will be created and we will provide that link as soon as it is available to us.
We will also post the full agreement as soon as we are able to do so.

Should the need arise, there is an appeal process for any unreasonable denials, and we will be providing a link for that as well.

This agreement is valid through September 1, 2021 with the potential to extend through year end. During this period we will continue to engage with the state in hopes of reaching a permanent telework deal that recognizes the benefits of telework for all parties involved.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding this agreement, please email us at telework@andr.org or contact the A&R office at 860 953 1316.

-6/18/21

Professional Development 2021

For those who have already signed up for the May 28th Professional Development Day, the email with your Zoom links and workbooks was sent out today (Friday May 21st), so please check your email.

For those who haven't yet signed up but plan to do so for the May 28th or June 4th sessions, remember, you are now at agency discretion; they can deny your request due to lack of sufficient notice at this point.

However, there is still room, so if you wish to sign up, use this link: 

https://leadernet.aft.org/webform/ar-professional-development-day-2021

 

Governor Announces Return To Office

As we are all aware, the Governor communicated, via email, his desire for State employees to return to the office for at least some portion of the work week.   He has identified two dates for returning to the office:  June 1 for front-facing customer service and July 1 for all others.  This does not mean the end of Telework, the Governor specifically identifies the Interim Telework agreement and states “we will continue with the pre-COVID-19 interim telework guidelines, which allows eligible employees, in the covered bargaining units and others including managers, to work from home up to 50% of the time with manager approval”.   

What strikes us is that Gov Lamont’s return to the office directive appears to be more of a public consumption announcement as opposed to a logical policy position.  He presents his  “let’s plan for our new normal work environment” while unveiling a plan that simply states, let’s get back to 2019.  What he ignored is the obvious conclusion that high-frequency telecommuting should remain as the “new normal”.  It ignores that the telecommuting directives we have been operating under were actually exceedingly successful and far more efficient than the common office structure he wants us to revisit.  Even if we pretend the virus is no longer highly contagious and can no longer lead to serious health consequences, his “going forward” plan should recognize that we accomplished a tremendous amount of positive work-product while telecommuting, while at the same time reducing traffic congestion and lowering our carbon footprint.

That aside, the Telework Interim Agreement that the Governor addresses in his email is outdated at this point.  That agreement was designed as a way of testing Telecommuting; we no longer need to test it, telecommuting has passed the test.  Telecommuting works!!!   We expect that those who were able to telecommute last year will continue to telecommute at least 50% of the tme after July 1.  Many were already  working a hybrid schedule consisting of some in office work combined with telecommuting, such schedules should continue.  A&R and a few other unions will be meeting with the Office of Labor Relations very soon to negotiate the Interim Agreement into a much more relevant document.  Management’s prior assertions that telecommuting was impossible or too complex to manage have been shown to be demonstrably false.  It is our intention and our hope that we will have a better agreement with the Governor on the future of Telework now that all of our employees have proven that it is a success. 

-5/13/21

Final A&R Facebook Contest Ends Wednesday 5/12 8PM

As many are aware, we have been running a few contests from the A&R Facebook page, this week is the last contest we have planned (alright, we will be trying to do a Bingo Night in June, but that's a secret right now)...so our final contest is a "Caption that Photo Contest".  Below is the picture we want you to "caption".  The contest is open now but will close on Wednesday May 12th at 8pm and the winners will be picked by the A&R Social Cmte the next day.

The basic rules for this contest:

  • •Post your most creative caption in the comment section below the photo on the A&R Facebook page and be sure to put your name above the caption so we know who you are.
  • •Each member will be allowed to post as many captions as they wish.  Just be sure to ‘reply’ to your first caption submitted if you have other additional submissions you want to enter.  This is to ensure we receive all of your entries under your name.
  • • At 8:00pm on Wednesday, May 12th, the game will close and the Social Committee will vote on the winners. 

There will be a 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winner. Prizes awarded to the 1st and 2nd place winners will win an AWESOME prize, and the 3rd place winners will get $25 in gift cards!!

Don’t miss your chance to win!!!