Clerks protest new hours by taking a day off at UM


An estimated several hundred clerical workers at the University of Maryland College Park used sick leave and vacation time to take the day off yesterday in an informal protest against the 40-hour work week, according to union officials and a spot check of offices.

Craig Newman, executive director of the campus-based American Federation of State County and Municipal Workers Local 1072, estimated that at least 200 people took the day off to protest a gubernatorial order requiring state employees to work up to 4 1/2 hours a week extra without an increase in pay.

The plan is part of the governor's effort to avoid layoffs and increase productivity.

The job action, while spotty, affected the president's office, academic departments, public relations, admissions and other administrative offices.

But employees in such key offices as student registration and orientation did not take off yesterday, the first day of the university's second summer session.

"Most of the people realized what a problem it would have been," said William C. Spann, director of registration and records. "It went very well," he said.

In the College of Business, where four secretaries took the day off, Mercy Coogan, who normally handles public relations, spent much of the day answering phones "as pleasantly as I can" and finally learning how to transfer calls.

She ate at her desk and when a couple of faculty members asked her if she "had a key to one place or another, it only took me an hour," Ms. Coogan said. "These folks are so important to us, and we miss them desperately," she said. "We'll survive. It'll all be OK tomorrow."

College Park officials have given employees affected by the governor's order six weeks to adjust to the new schedule and flexibility to arrange their hours, and say employees have the right to use earned leave time as they wish.

"The university feels confident that those who are not working today are following the appropriate guidelines regarding personal, sick and annual leave," Charles F. Sturtz, vice president for administrative affairs, said in a prepared statement.

An appeals court judge is expected to hear arguments today on a union appeal of the governor's executive order.

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