Staff column: Ten hour day is a plus and a minus
Recently when Gov. Jon Huntsman announced that state employees would be moving to a four day work week with 10 hour days, I was amused at the outcry from public employees.
I heard, from them, both in person and through the media, some valid points that are negative about the change.
First of all the governor did not get employee input before the decision was made and I think that was the biggest mistake. No, the business of government shouldn't be run as a democracy, but on the other hand every good supervisor knows that to get employees to buy into an idea those employees need to be involved in the ideas development.
But I also heard a lot of whining about things state employees might have to change in their lives. I understand that in particular, single parents have a hard time getting kids off to school when they must be to work so early and then in the evening they want to be there as early as possible when their kids come home from school.
Others complained about part time job schedules, church activities, athletic leagues, clubs, the list goes on and on.
Many state employees have never worked in the private sector (just as many in the private sector have never worked for the state). But I have worked for private companies, the federal government, state government and in public education. I also ran my own full time business for six years. So maybe I am in a unique position to comment on this, just as others with my experience would be.
What I would like to personally have is the state employees hours, with the benefits of working in private business. You know all the holidays, the vacation, the benefits and now the four day week, 10 hour days that they are going to get, plus the private enterprise rewards of bonuses for doing a good job and a chance to grow without politics always being in the way. That would be the perfect job.
Right now, I and many people who work at the paper already have 10 to 12 hour days. Only we don't have four day weeks. We have five day weeks and often hours are also put in on Saturday and Sunday. That is the plight of working in the private sector, particularly when you are on salary.
Then there are benefits.
While state benefits have been degraded some in recent years (many employees have to pay something for their health insurance premiums and their co-pays have gone up), state workers have much better benefits than most private businesses, particularly small private business such as local retailers and manufacturers.
Employees in many private companies are paying more than 30 percent of their salary for their health insurance.
Security is another thing. State employees also have a much better chance of keeping their jobs during an economic slowdown than private sector employees.
It's not that I don't have empathy for people who have had their lives upset by the new state work schedule which will soon begin, but I want them to also look at the other side of things. There is no where, one way or another, where work is always a bed of roses.
If there is an issue here for anyone it is for the taxpaying public. While hours of operation may be longer from Monday through Friday so that working people can get to government services easier before and after work, that Friday being a dark day will affect a lot of people, particularly those who live in rural areas and must make it to the Wasatch Front to do government business. I know that when I have had to do things with state government in Salt Lake I have often taken a Friday to do it because it was not only one of the the least busy days at work for us, but so I could also stay there part of the weekend and visit family and pursue other activities.
So while state employees will get a three day weekend, every weekend, some taxpayers will not have the services they need on a day when it is most convenient or needed.
There are many sides to this coin, and everyone should realize there is a down and an up side on each of them.