Utah state agencies to return to five-day workweek

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 05, 2011 6:13 PM
Utah state agencies to return to five-day workweek

By James Nelson

SALT LAKE CITY (Reuters) - Utah state government agencies will return to a five-day work week on Tuesday, scrapping the four-day plan launched three years ago by then-Governor Jon Huntsman, now a Republican presidential contender.

"The bottom line was the savings were not what we had hoped," said Utah state Senator Peter Knudson, a Republican and assistant majority whip. "I don't blame that on Governor Huntsman or anyone else. I just believe that we were more optimistic than what the reality proved to be."

The pilot initiative started by Huntsman in August 2008 was designed to save energy and money by switching to a Monday-through-Thursday, 10-hour-per-day work schedule for most state offices.

But despite publicity about the shortened workweek, many citizens found themselves surprised and frustrated by "closed" signs when they sought to conduct business with various state agencies on Fridays, Knudson said.

A state audit of the program showed savings of less than $1 million annually, far less than the several million Huntsman had promised.

State employees, meanwhile, who were forced to abruptly alter their work schedules to accommodate the experimental schedule now have to switch back.

"I would have preferred to stay on the four-day work week or give employees considerably more time to make life adjustments," said Utah state Senator Ross Romero, a Democrat and minority leader.

Romero said he believed keeping the four-day week in effect for another year would have been better than scrapping it now.

Huntsman, elected in 2004 to the first of two terms as Utah governor, resigned in August 2009 to accept an appointment by President Barack Obama to serve as U.S. ambassador to China.

He gave up his ambassadorship in April of this year and later entered the race for the 2012 Republican nomination for president.

(Writing and reporting by James Nelson; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Steve Gorman)