Stagger work hours at Mantralaya, says Maharashtra chief secretary
A day after chief minister (CM) Uddhav Thackeray directed Maharashtra chief secretary to work out shifts for Mantralaya officers and employees, the chief secretary issued an order on Wednesday, asking all secretaries of departments to adopt staggered working hours to avoid crowding and to follow social distancing norms.
Chief secretary Sanjay Kumar stated in a letter that staggered working hours may be initiated by allowing employees to work on alternate days or three-day shifts or weekly shifts or staggered work hours.
“In the wake of the growing number of Covid-19 positive cases in the city of Mumbai and the entire State. In order to facilitate the adherence to the norms of social distancing and to ensure avoidance of crowding, staggering may be initiated in the Mantralaya… The secretaries of the respective departments can decide on what form of staggering to adopt subject to maintaining all social distancing and other Covid-19 related protocols and also at the same time ensuring that work is not affected,” wrote Kumar in his letter.
He also wrote that if the secretaries feel full attendance can be maintained without observing staggered work hours but while following all Covid-19 protocols, they can do so.
Employee unions and former bureaucrats have welcomed the move to have flexible working hours. Former Maharashtra chief secretary Jayant Kumar Banthia said that the idea of staggered work hours was discussed for south Mumbai earlier, but did not materialise. He said, “I am happy that this has come from the very top and the Covid-19 situation has a role to play. Not just for Mantralaya but staggered work hours should be done for all offices in south Mumbai to prevent everybody from going to one geography at one time.”
Banthia said that the options given by the current chief secretary are workable. “The mindset of the people needs to change on working hours. There could be challenges in having staggered hours, such as managing timings with ministers and secretaries. Ministers and secretaries also have to adjust to this. Even in staggering, there could be a few overlapping hours a day where all the staff is available for work,” said the 1977-batch officer of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS). Banthia was the chief secretary between May 2012 and November 2013.
GD Kulthe, chief advisor of Maharashtra State Gazetted Officers Federation, said, “We are deliberating on these options and we are positive about it. It is possible to work out shifts on one of these options given. A decision is expected in a couple of days.”