BANGOR – Maine’s most recent announcement regarding what counts as an essential business on March 31 has kept many state employees on the job, while most people are bound by Governor Janet Mills’ “Stay Healthy at Home” mandate.
“We have transportation workers being required to report to work to pick up trash on the side of the highway. We have clerical workers coming to do filing projects that have been put off for years. It really seems like a double standard for state workers,” said Maine State Employees Association general counsel Tom Feeley.
In response to concerns from his constituents, Maine State Employees Association president Dean Staffieri called on Governor Mills earlier this week to make a concise statement to further protect state of Maine workers by prioritizing the health and safety of state employees across the board.
“We’re looking for non-essential folks to be sent home. We’re looking for the essential folks to be given better protective gear, better equipment, better resources. It’s all very concerning,” said Feeley.
Feeley said Thursday that many of the issues arise because decisions on essential staff and implementation of social distancing are being left to managers and work site supervisors, as opposed to coming from a succinct voice from state officials.
“It’s been a very decentralized process and we’re not seeing the action we want from the top,” said Feeley.
In a statement, the state Department of Administrative and Financial Services says close to 85 percent of state employees are working remotely, and it has stepped up janitorial services, adding “the administration appreciates the union’s concern for the health of state employees no matter where they work. We care deeply about it, too, which is why she is working every day to protect their health and ensure that state government can meet its obligation to the people it serves.”