St. Louis County Council acknowledged this fact in Virginia on Tuesday when it proposed a permanent mobile work policy that ensures that control is in the hands of department heads and supervisors.
“This is not a pandemic policy; this is a new way of delivering services to complement our work, ”said Jim Gottschald, director of human resources and administration.
The policy requires county employees to make a written request for mobile work subject to management approval. The county’s proposal says mobile work is not a grieved right or contractual benefit. The proposal also makes it clear that it is not for everyone.
A key passage reads: “During mobile work, an employee’s duties may not require frequent direct face-to-face contact with other people in a county facility or regular access to special equipment only available on the site. a county workplace. “
During an early peak in the pandemic in April 2020, more than half (903) of the county’s roughly 1,800 employees were working remotely, while 707 were either in the field or in an office.
We do not yet know what these figures are. Since the county council ended its declaration of a COVID-19 emergency in July, the county has sought to return to more traditional service delivery. A pilot home-based work program currently in place would be replaced by the new policy.
“This cannot result in a decrease in the services we provide to citizens in the traditional way they have sought out the services of St. Louis County,” Gottschald said.
The policy was unanimously approved in Committee of the Whole, with commissioners hiring months of work, which included an employee survey and several rounds of stakeholder interviews.
Commissioner Patrick Boyle, representing eastern Duluth, said the effort to reach politics was “the work of a yeoman.”
Commissioner Paul McDonald, of Ely, weighed in: “I have spoken to a number of staff and they are ready to see what happens.
The policy was not offered without tension.
Social worker Dennis Frazier, president of AFSCME Local 66, addressed the commissioners, saying his phone was ‘exploding’ with county workers concerned about COVID-19 and how the workplace was managed as the pandemic persisted.
“What I’m asking for is clear communication,” Frazier said. “People don’t want to work full time from home. They just want to be safe.
During last week’s Committee of the Whole meeting in Duluth, Commissioner Keith Nelson raised the subject of a letter written to Commissioners and Director of Public Health and Human Services Linnea Mirsch, by a county employee criticizing management decision-making regarding mobile working.
A copy of the letter sent to the News Tribune revealed many frustrations with an employee’s lack of control over their mobile work situation.
“I don’t read anonymous letters. I’ve never done it, ”Nelson said.
Nelson asked the county administration to investigate the letter, which was produced on county letterhead and mailed using the county’s postage meter. The county has not said whether it will act on this request.
As part of the new policy, the county will provide a laptop or tablet for use in other locations.
But home workstations will not benefit from county technical support, and the policy also imposes costs on employees: “Mobile workers are responsible for obtaining and paying for necessary internet services at their other place of work.” indicates the policy.
Commissioner Ashley Grimm, representing West Duluth, said “enthusiasm” was the dominant response she had heard from employees, but wanted stewards to feel heard and invested.
“The last thing I will watch is to hear from the shop stewards,” she said. “Not that we have to have full consensus. “
The county council will make its final vote on the mobile work policy at its September 28 meeting in Alborn.