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State extends pay bump for key Maryland workers during coronavirus crisis; union seeking return to double pay

Thousands of Maryland state workers, including officers at the Jessup Correctional Institution, pictured, will receive a temporary pay increase for at least another month. The AFSCME union argues such workers should receive double pay.
Thousands of Maryland state workers, including officers at the Jessup Correctional Institution, pictured, will receive a temporary pay increase for at least another month. The AFSCME union argues such workers should receive double pay. (Jerry Jackson/Baltimore Sun)

Maryland state employees working in front-line jobs during the pandemic will continue to receive a bump in pay for at least one more month.

But the leaders of the largest union for state workers say they are frustrated their members aren’t getting the double pay they received at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, and they’re preparing to file a grievance against the state.

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Since April 1, employees in working in 24/7 operations, such as prisons, state hospitals and with the state police, have received an extra $3.13 per hour. That’s roughly $250 extra for each two-week pay period.

Human services employees are paid extra when doing field work, but not when telecommuting from home.

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State employees who must work in “designated quarantined areas” receive another $2 per hour.

The extra pay was set to expire Tuesday, but has been extended through June 2, according to the state Department of Budget and Management.

For a couple of weeks in March, as the COVID-19 outbreak began to spread, eligible employees received double pay.

AFSCME Maryland, which represents many of the eligible employees, maintains that workers deserve double pay under the terms of their contract. The union also contends that thousands more essential state workers it represents — including those who work in transportation and health — should be receiving enhanced pay.

The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees also says the state has not provided safe working conditions because it does not have sufficient supplies of protective equipment, such as masks and gloves.

“The administration is breaking the trust of the first responders and the essential employees that are providing vital services to Marylanders right now and working to contain the virus,” said Patrick Moran, AFSCME president.

He estimated up to 10,000 employees are affected by the pay issue.

AFSCME is preparing to file a grievance, alleging the state is violating the contract. But the union is concerned by a requirement that each participating member must sign the paperwork for a mass grievance in person, especially given concern about the transmission of the new coronavirus.

“It baffles anyone that you can buy a house with a digital signature, but you can’t file a grievance to get your back wages with a digital signature in this day and age,” Moran said.

AFSCME asked the state Monday to waive the in-person signature requirement, but hasn’t received a response.

Nick Pepersack, a spokesman and deputy chief of staff for the Department of Budget and Management, said Tuesday the request was under review.

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