AFSCME, DHS push pilot project to improve staffing issues

JoAnn Holton, Local 607, works at one of the homes that will take part in the pilot project to improve staffing issues.

AFSCME and DHS are working to fix two of the biggest staffing issues in MSOCS homes – the huge percentage of part-time workers, and inconsistent scheduling.

One result is an AFSCME-driven pilot project to test solutions. The six-month project begins this August at five homes in the Brainerd area and three homes in Brooklyn Park.

Among other things, the pilot allows part-time workers to add shifts in nearby homes. This option gets these workers more hours, and also reduces pressures on full-time workers to fill open shifts.

The pilot project also makes it easier for part-time workers to qualify for health insurance. Working more hours is one way. The pilot project also bases their insurance eligibility on the total hours they work over a full year, instead of over 3 months.

Part-time workers need to average 30 hours a week, and DHS says 92 percent of part-timers do get the hours they need. “But there are times when you are on your hands and knees begging so you can get hours,” says Local 761’s Sebrina Hegg. “It does put your insurance at risk.”

“What we’ve tried to do, as a responsible employer, is to make sure that people have access to health coverage,” says deputy DHS commissioner Anne Barry. “Because we’re also an agency that’s driving for greater access to health-care coverage, right? So we don’t want to be the employer that doesn’t provide for some access.”