A state workers union has filed a grievance over the Cuomo administration's use of surveillance cameras to gather evidence in cases of employees allegedly taking time off from work improperly.
The Public Employees Federation, in a grievance filed this month with the Department of Environmental Conservation, said that using cameras to track work habits violates a section of its labor contract that states that "no employee in this unit (PEF) shall be required to punch a time clock or record attendance with a timekeeper.''
"Our members have the contractual right (as professionals) to record their own times of arrival and departure from work, free of surveillance,'' PEF spokeswoman Jane Briggs said in an email about the case. "We argue that using time records generated by security systems/cameras to monitor our members' time and attendance violates..." the contract.
Not so says the Cuomo administration:
The recent grievance, which has not yet been resolved, is being viewed by some as a dispute over semantics.
DEC managers say they used the cameras not as timekeeping devices but to verify the comings and goings of state workers, according to documents reviewed by the Times Union.
Briggs said another section of the union's contract, known as a side letter, says electronic surveillance is allowed if it furthers the health and safety at state workplaces.
"We believe this means the state can use security systems and the information that is generated from them for valid security purposes," she said. "They cannot use that information to track/document time at work.''
And how is the state using the surveillance cameras to "further the health and safety at state workplaces?
This kind of thing:
At least three DEC employees have been disciplined for lengthy lunch breaks at the agency's Broadway headquarters or for other absences during the 7.5-hour work day.
In one case, managers referred to a video of a person coming and going during a one-hour lunch break that was allegedly recorded as a half-hour on a time card, known as a leave and accrual tracking sheet.
Another employee was rebuked after moving a vehicle to avoid a ticket.
Oh, yeah - everybody's workplace health and safety was put into jeopardy because some dude went out to move his car.
I understand that state workers are paid for working a certain amount of time and they are responsible for working that time.
And I understand that there are times when employees take advantage of the system and have to be disciplined.
The DEC biologist who skipped out of work to drink in a bar comes to mind.
But for the Cuomo administration to use the surveillance cameras under the guise that they are furthering health and safety in the workplace is jive - they're using them to monitor employees time and attendance, which is against the PEF contract.
You ever notice how the state (or the city) loves to hold workers to the contract when it's to their advantage but loves to stretch contractual language when it's not?