4-day work week for Suffolk employees?

May 22, 2008 4:05:35 PM PDT
The idea of a shorter work week has been proposed for government workers in Suffolk County. The goal is to save energy, specifically gasoline. Work longer hours, but fewer days. Who wants to sign up?

Long Island reporter Emily Smith has more.

Sky-high gas prices have a lot of people changing their ways. And now, hundreds of people might be in for another change, a four-day work week.

"My day off, oh boy, I have a list a mile long," Suffolk city employee Diane Rein said. "Especially this time of year, around the house."

Suffolk County Legislator Wayne Horsley proposed the bill, called Operation Sunshine. It is a concept also being considered in California, West Virginia and Georgia.

The optional plan would allow about 400 county employees to work four 10-hour days from July first through September 30. If approved, it would eventually include more than 12,000 county employees.

"The average trip to work is 34 miles in Suffolk," Horsley said. "If you're going to work, you could save 34 miles and gallons a day by conserving that one day off."

But would cutting one day out of the work week commute really help? Some say no, pointing out that people will probably use more gas because their cars won't just be parked at work.

"There's going to be more people on the road," construction worker Scott Hawkins said. "We already have enough. That's what people are going to do."

But Horsley doesn't think people will take advantage and says it would bring down demand for gas, as long as people don't go too far.

"That is the message here," he said. "We have to start consolidating our trips to the store. etc."

Suffolk County's top official is also taking the four-day work week seriously. Only County Executive Steve Levy would like to see a compromise on Operation Sunshine - a voluntary furlough program. The difference: you don't get paid for the day off.

"You get the day off, we in the county get the savings and pass it on to taxpayers," Levy said.

Whether or not Operation Sunshine sees the light of day has yet to be decided, but one way or another, it looks like the four-day work week will be an option for most Suffolk County employees as early as this summer.