Update: Union files class action grievance over office space

Department of Administration plans to unveil new space standards on the 7th floor of Juneau’s State Office Building July 17.

The Alaska State Employees Association has filed a class action grievance over the state’s new Universal Space Standards policy.

ASEA executive director Jim Duncan says the space standards are creating major changes in working conditions for its members.

“I’m getting many calls and emails from members who are being impacted by this, and each and every one of them indicate that it’s causing disruption in the work site making it very uncomfortable for them.”

Changes caused by the new space standards include putting workers into 6-by-8-foot cubicles and restricting what items are allowed within a work space. Duncan says the state failed to negotiate with the union prior to implementing the space standards, which violates the collective bargaining agreement.

In a July 1 letter sent to Administration commissioner Becky Hultberg, Duncan outlined the concerns and asked the state to stop the implementation of the space standards.

Deputy Administration Commissioner Curtis Thayer responded on July 3 disputing Duncan’s claim about violating the collective bargaining agreement. He said space standards fall under “Management Rights.”  Thayer also urged Duncan “to not make assumptions about declining productivity or service to the public,” claiming the new spaces are “spacious, inviting, and exciting places to work.” Thayer did not indicate the state would cease implementation of the new standards.

ASEA filed the grievance on July 10.

“You go to work, you expect to have some good type of good work area to perform your job, and this really is a step backwards for the state. I think it shows a real lack of respect for the employees and for what they do for the people of the state of Alaska, so we’re clearly going to pursue this aggressively,” says Duncan.

The state has 20 days to respond to the grievance. If the state denies the union’s request to bargain over the space standards before implementation, ASEA will ask for arbitration.

Meanwhile, the Department of Administration is planning to unveil the new space standards on the 7th floor of the Juneau State Office Building next Wednesday.

* Editor’s note: The update reflects Department of Administration’s response to Jim Duncan’s letter.

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