Ending remote work is no way to fix state government workforce vacancy problem, AFSCME warns

By: - January 17, 2023 4:08 pm

Nevada state government currently has a workforce vacancy rate of approximately 24% of legislatively approved positions. (Grant Sawyer state office building in Las Vegas, Nevada Division of Public Works photo)

Gov. Joe Lombardo’s executive order instructing state agencies to return to in-person offices by July 1 is receiving pushback from at least one union representing those public workers.

Lombardo in his first week in office issued an executive order directing the state workforce to return “to pre-pandemic, normal and customary office conditions” by July 1. In the same order, he directed the department of administration “to review and make recommendations with respect to hiring, retention and promotional rules and procedures related to state employment.”

There are currently 17,485 state employees, according to the order.

But there should be significantly more.

The order notes the state currently has a workforce vacancy rate of approximately 24% of legislatively approved positions. At least one state agency — the Nevada Department of Corrections, has described their vacancy levels as 1 in 3 positions.

On Thursday, AFSCME Local 4041 signaled its support of remote-work options, which were widely embraced after the onset of the covid pandemic.

“With more than 24% of state positions left unfilled, it would be in the state’s best interest to find opportunities, like flexible work options, that would bolster staff retention and recruitment,” read the statement from Local 4041 President Harry Schiffman. “To be a competitive employer, the state must adapt to a changing workforce by allowing workers more discretion in how and where their work is accomplished.”

The statement continued, “As the largest union for state employees, we believe telework options are one way to improve working conditions through contract negotiations.”

The union noted it is currently in contract negotiations with the state.

AFSCME Local 4041 is the collective bargaining agency for more than 4,000 public sector employees across multiple agencies.

Lombardo’s office did not respond to the Current’s request for comment.

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April Corbin Girnus
April Corbin Girnus

April Corbin Girnus is an award-winning journalist with a decade of media experience. She has been a beat writer at Las Vegas Sun, a staff writer at LEO Weekly, web editor of Las Vegas Weekly and a blogger documenting North American bike share systems’ efforts to increase ridership in underserved communities. An occasional adjunct journalism professor, April steadfastly rejects the notion that journalism is a worthless major. Amid the Great Recession, she earned a B.A. in journalism from the University of Nevada Las Vegas, where she served as editor-in-chief of the student newspaper. She later earned an M.A. in media studies and a graduate certificate in media management from The New School for Public Engagement. A stickler about municipal boundary lines, April enjoys teaching people about unincorporated Clark County. She grew up in Sunrise Manor and currently resides in Paradise with her husband, three children and one mutt.