Four days a week . . .

By Max Cacas

For the last several weeks, a game of verbal ping pong has been taking place between the Office of Personnel Management and Capitol Hill over a proposal to allow some federal workers to work a four-day, 40-hour workweek.

The latest volley has come from the top lawmaker who started it all.

The other day, in his very first meeting with reporters as the new acting OPM director, Mike Hager said he is not that worried about reported differences of opinion over a four-day work week with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).


I don’t believe today we’re that far apart. He has now stated, and I have not talked to him, by the way, and there are communications that have been cited in the press that we haven’t even seen yet, but he’s not for a mandatory four-day work week.

Hager also told reporters that he believes as many as half of all federal workers participate in some form of alternative work scheduling already permitted by federal law, including teleworking.

This all started last month when Hoyer proposed that the federal government consider allowing its workers, when practical, to have four-day, 40-hour work weeks.

The state of Utah is one of the first to put most state employees on a four-day work week, and the idea is catching on in other states.

When asked about Hager’s latest comments on the subject during his weekly news briefing at the Capitol, Hoyer said he’s somewhat pleased.

He responded to me, and I responded to his letter. The response was, “We don’t like your idea,” and he attached to it an OPM memorandum which said almost exactly what my letter said. I responded to him, “Your memo says it will save money, and save gas, help in recruiting, and all that other stuff,” so I’m glad to hear he’s moving closer to me.

In his response, Hoyer has asked OPM to provide him with agency-by-agency statistics and other information regarding the number of federal workers who are eligible to work flexible schedules.

He has also asked OPM to document how the government has benefited when workers get to use workplace flexibilities.

The Maryland Democrat says there’s some logic to the four day workweek for some feds, notwithstanding recent criticism of the idea from House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio).

John Boehner’s response was, “big boon for federal employees”. It’s not a boon for federal employees, they still have to work a 40-hour work week. The proposal seems to make eminent sense, just as the [OPM] memorandum suggests, when it comes to saving gas.

Hoyer is still hopeful that needed legislation to expand the four-day work week for federal workers might be passed before the end of this fiscal year.

But with Congress on a fast track to adjourn before the end of this month, such authorization would have to be attached to another piece of legislation — perhaps another continuing resolution to fund the federal government — which is expected to be approved within the next few weeks.

(Copyright 2008 by All Rights Reserved.)