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State employees ponder 4-day work week

Oklahoman Published: July 7, 2008
TULSA -- A public hearing is planned at the state Capitol this week to discuss whether a four-day work week for state employees would save money as energy prices continue to rise.

Scott Barger, the deputy director of the Oklahoma Public Employees Association, said cutting one commute a week would be one way to help defray costs for state employees. The hearing is planned for 10 a.m. Wednesday.

"We're pushing some type of discussion to seriously consider it," Barger said.

Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman issued an order last week that will launch a yearlong experiment in which thousands of state employees will work 10 hours Monday through Thursday and then take Friday off. State police officers, prison guards and court employees are among those who'll still work five days a week.

And while some services might not be available on Fridays, Barger said the longer hours could allow better access to state services for people working 40 hours over the traditional five days.

"You also gain a better customer service perspective by allowing the agency to stay open longer hours," Barger said. "A person working doesn't have to take time off from their job to access those services. By shutting down the state office one day a week, you'll save the taxpayers money."

Barger said polls show that 98 percent of the association's approximately 10,500 members favor a four-day work week.

State agencies already have some flexibility to let employees telecommute or establish other "alternative work periods," said Office of Personnel Management executive director Oscar Jackson.

"The four-day work week is relatively new," Jackson said, adding that he highlighted the proposal in a memo sent recently to agency directors.

To make the four-day week work, agencies would have to determine whether they could close for one day each week or would have to develop a rotational assignment for employees that would allow the office to remain open five days a week.

"There may, in fact, be some decisions over the next few weeks or months to determine whether or not a four-day work week for their particular agency would be appropriate," Jackson said.

Among the chief concerns is how 10-hour work days would affect child-care options for parents.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.

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