OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - State agencies are being urged to get on board with the idea of a four-day work week or flexible schedules that allow employees to save on high gasoline prices.
Some agency officials testified at a legislative hearing Wednesday that they already are permitting employees flexibility in work schedules.
The Oklahoma Public Employees Association is pushing the idea of schedule changes that reduce the cost for employees commuting daily to work.
State Rep. Mike Shelton, D-Oklahoma City, pointed out that Utah is going to a four-day work week for most of its employees and other states are considering similar changes.
Shelton filed legislation this session in an effort to get agencies to shorten the work week for state employees, who did not get a pay raise before the Legislature adjourned May 23.
“If we cannot give them a pay increase then we need to look at alternatives to help them out,” the lawmaker said Wednesday.
Beginning in August, Utah will be the first state to mandate a four-day work week for about 17,000 state employees.
It is part of a yearlong experiment ordered by Republican Gov. Jon Huntsman to save energy, as well as helping workers. Some employees, including prison guards, are exempt from the order.
Oscar Jackson, the director of the state Office of Personnel Management, said Oklahoma agencies already can have a four-day work week or other flexible work arrangements under state law.
Officials of some agencies said they allow employees to work an extra hour each day and take off every other Friday.
Other agencies have four-day, 10-hour schedules for some employees. Mike Patterson of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation said maintenance crews work four 10-hour days to take advantage of the longer daylight hours during the summer. He said they go back to five eight-hour days later.
Shelton said the plan could be a cost savings for the state, while not curbing services. He acknowledged it will be impossible for some agencies to close their doors one day a week, but employees could benefit from flexibility in their schedules.
Scott Barger of the OPEA said a four-hour work week could reduce the employee turnover rate, which he said cost the state $85 million a year.
Shelton said he would meet later this month with Gov. Brad Henry to discuss ideas.
Shelton said an executive order from the governor “would be wonderful,” but Henry has not indicated a desire to follow in Huntsman's footsteps.
Paul Sund, a spokesman for Henry, said agency officials “already have the authority to institute reasonable and responsible flex time policies, including a 40-hour, four-day work week, provided they can still provide the same level of services. In fact, many agencies are already implementing such policies.”
Sund said the governor's office has instructed the Office of Personnel Management to work with agency directors to determine what flex time policies can assist state employees while maintaining the same level of services for taxpayers.
John Richard, the head of the Department of Central Services, said going to a four-day work week would not be a cost savings to the state unless the agency closed down for one day.
He said it could cost the state an extra $500,000 if hours are lengthened because electricity costs are higher during peak hours between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.