Report: CT hourly workers experience unstable pay, hours

POSTED ON APRIL 3, 2018 | JOE COOPER

A new report tracking Connecticut's hourly workers found trends of low pay and insufficient work hours for employees in the state's food and retail service industries.

The report from University of California Berkeley researchers shows that about 66 percent of Connecticut's on-call workers have to keep their schedules open for work without any guarantees. A third of workers polled are parents of young children who "struggle" to spend time with their family, they said.

The findings come on the heels of a so-called "fair workweek" bill that limits on-call shift scheduling by guaranteeing workers are compensated for lost time when hours are cut at the last minute.

Senate Bill 321 did not pass out of committee last month, however, advocates at the Fair Workweek Coalition are working to bring the bill back to the legislature for a vote.

Activists from the Connecticut Working Families Party, a liberal third-party advocacy group, say the new data answers questions raised by legislators who voted against the bill.

The report's data draws from 438 of Connecticut's 250,000 workers employed in the retail and food service sector, who averaged an hourly wage of $12.40, researchers said.

The report said 17 percent of Connecticut on-call employees work less than 20 hours per week and 31 percent work between 20 and 30 hours per week.

Moreover, the study says about half of workers reported no control over their schedules and the majority have little input, as 74 percent of workers desire more predictable work schedules. Workers also reported a 37 percent pay gap between the week with the most hours and the week with the least.

Those in opposition say the bill would prohibit on-call employment by requiring employers to give an employee at least 24 hours' notice prior to a scheduled shift of an employee.

The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM) opposed the measure last month in written testimony on the bill. CCM legislative analyst Zachary McKeown wrote that the requirements are impractical and would "limit the flexibility needed by local officials to meet the constantly changing needs of municipalities."

McKeown said municipal leaders need the flexibility to adjust employees' schedules according to unpredictable events, such as inclement weather or a co-worker being injured on the job, requiring a municipality to notify an employee with less than 24-hour notice.

In support, Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney (D-New Haven) said unpredictable work hours make it difficult for parents to "meet basic expenses and arrange childcare, doctor's appointments or family meals."

Connecticut Families said similar legislation has been passed in other cities, including New York, Seattle and San Francisco. The state of New York and Philadelphia are currently considering "fair workweek" laws this year.