By Don Koivisto
Recently, Governor Jennifer Granholm announced her plan to expand opportunities for alternative work schedules - including four, 10- hour days - providing flexibility for the services the state offers, reducing absenteeism and strengthening our efforts to make the State of Michigan a great place to do great work. As an added bonus, Michiganians will benefit from reduced traffic congestion and air pollution.
Consumers and the agri-food sector, however, can rest assured that the services provided by the Michigan Department of Agriculture will not be impacted by flexible work schedules. Essential services such as food and dairy inspections, gas inspections, animal health response such as bovine Tuberculosis, and other critical duties will remain on a Monday through Friday schedule.
Offering a flexible work schedule is not new to the department, however, we are making it more widely available to help ease the burden placed on MDA staff due to rising fuel costs. MDA will be working to identify other efficiencies and more affordable ways of doing state business without sacrificing the quality of service we provide to Michigan citizens whether at the pump or the grocery store.
Currently, about 75% of MDA's nearly 550 employees utilize a modified schedule while still providing top-notch services agriculture stakeholders expect. The flexible work option now affords MDA employees the opportunity to conduct their work at peak times – such as at a local gas station first thing in the morning - to ensure consumer pocketbooks are protected.
The long-term goal of a flex work schedule is to maintain consumer confidence while addressing the financial strain of skyrocketing energy costs both on the state budget as well as employee pocketbooks.
Consumers and the agri-business industry will still receive the same level of service from MDA.
MDA protects, promotes, and preserves the food, agricultural, environmental, and economic interests of the people of Michigan.
For more information, visit the MDA Web site at www.michigan.gov/mda.
- Don Koivisto is the director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture