Heat and Hypocrisy on Full Display

When it comes to telework, many federal employees are getting mixed messages. And NTEU isn’t having it.

On one hand, multiple agencies are aggressively trying to curtail telework programs. And now comes a memo from the Office of Personnel Management encouraging agencies to use telework and alternative work schedules to help employees cope with the severe heat

“As we experience severe heat and humidity this summer, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is partnering with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to remind Federal agencies to be proactive in protecting the health and well‑being of our employees,” Acting Director Margaret Weichert wrote Tuesday in a memo to agencies.

Ironically, HHS is one of the federal agencies that has begun severely curtailing and eliminating telework for its employees, many of whom have been successfully teleworking for years. NTEU recently surveyed bargaining unit members at the agency about the telework cuts, and more than half of the 1,600 respondents said it would increase the time and cost of their commute and reduce their productivity.

“In a modern world and with so many smarter options, why is this even a discussion?” responded one HHS employee. “We’re going backwards, period.”

At the Social Security Administration’s Office of Hearings Operations (OHO), SSA proposed removing telework from the contract with NTEU and giving managers the ability to approve or change telework schedules with no accountability. In a NTEU survey of OHO employees, 96 percent of respondents said they are worried about this agency proposal. (See survey results)

NTEU fought for passage of the 2010 Telework Enhancement Act. We fought to incorporate telework into our contracts. And now we will fight to protect this workplace program that has benefited employees, agencies and taxpayers for years.