Labor board nixes double pay for state employee Irene work

File photo Gov. Peter Shumlin in a press conference in the days following Tropical Storm Irene.

File photo
Gov. Peter Shumlin and state officials in a press conference in the days following Tropical Storm Irene.

MONTPELIER — The 63 state employees who had sought double pay for their work in the weeks after Tropical Storm Irene have been denied by the Vermont Labor Relations Board, which issued a ruling Monday lamenting the fact that the grievance was even filed.

The Aug. 28, 2011, flood displaced more than 1,500 employees from the state office complex in Waterbury, forcing many to work from off-site locations until the state could secure office space elsewhere. While most employees performed their jobs without complaint, more than 60 claimed that “emergency closure” language in their union contract guaranteed them double pay for continuing to work while their usual workspace was uninhabitable.

On Monday, the labor board said the “emergency” closure applied only to the day of the floods, not the subsequent weeks during which employees had to work from their homes or on the road.

“(D)ouble pay for work performed is required if there is a complete closing for emergency reasons, and an emergency typically would be of a relatively short duration,” the board said.

The board said it doubted that the drafters of the collective bargaining agreement ever contemplated that “double pay for work performed for a complete closing for emergency reasons could extend for the lengthy period of time.” And a ruling that it could, the board said, “would hinder the ability of State departments and agencies to carry out (their) mission to serve the public without an excessive drain on State funds.”

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