About 15,000 Maryland state employees who are required to come into work began receiving increased wages Wednesday, albeit at a lower rate than a previous hazard pay incentive.
The Department of Budget and Management sent a letter to state union representatives on Wednesday, informing them that eligible employees will receive a $3.13 per hour differential for certain hours worked. The increase works out to about $250 a pay period, Cynthia A. Kollner, executive director of the state’s Office of Personnel Services and Benefits, wrote.
Workers eligible for the differential include employees working in 24-hour operations at the Departments of Health, Juvenile Services, and Public Safety and Correctional Services, as well as police officers and state firefighters.
Employees who are required to work in quarantine areas will receive Elevated COVID-19 Response Pay of an additional $2 per hour for each hour worked in the quarantine area, the state said.
The pay increases are expected to cost the state about $3.7 million every two weeks.
“While this differential is not equivalent to the premium pay that the State provided to employees at the onset of this crisis before universal screening and other safety protocols were put in place, it is designed to be sustainable for the State given the unknown duration of this health crisis,” Kollner wrote.
From March 12-21, the state had paid some essential workers double their hourly wages. However, the government said that increase wasn’t meant to be permanent, and was curtailed after new screening procedures and employee protections were put into place.
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 3 President Patrick Moran on Wednesday called the announcement on the pay differential “a step forward.”
“However it does not acknowledge the dangers our members are confronting,” Moran said in a statement.
The union represents about 10,000 of the employees eligible for the pay increase, including state corrections and health care workers.
“Many of our members have no ability to engage in the practices the governor is promoting, such as social distancing,” Moran said. “This is compounded by the fact that there is not enough personal protective gear for our members to use.”
Moran said he hoped state agencies will increase resources for workers who are in close quarters and interacting with the public.
The increase announced on Wednesday will end on May 5, unless extended by the secretary of Budget and Management.
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