Frontline employees have multiple questions and concerns about how the government intends to reopen all federal buildings and when some employees may be called back to their worksite.
However, the June 10 guidance from the administration represents a solid start to the long process of making sure there will be improvements in safety protocols at the workplace and favorable updates to employees’ work schedules and conditions. NTEU will work to ensure that agencies follow this guidance.
In particular, the guidance makes clear that no major changes should happen until after agencies’ reentry plans are finalized July 19 and all bargaining obligations are met. NTEU also appreciates the administration’s emphasis on ample notice – at least 30 days – before employees’ working conditions are changed. The guidance also includes strongly worded language that agencies must bargain with employee unions about these changes, which is a welcome endorsement of the importance of collective bargaining agreements and their requirements.
NTEU also agrees that any employee who has teleworked successfully throughout the pandemic – and there are tens of thousands of them – is considered telework eligible from now on, even post-pandemic. This is an important distinction that will allow telework programs to be expanded wherever possible.
Finally, this is not about federal employees “getting back to work,” because they never stopped working. Federal employees have been on the job throughout the pandemic – whether teleworking or continuing to show up at the workplace for jobs that cannot be done remotely – and their commitment to public service is honorable.
Their health and safety is of paramount importance and NTEU has already begun the process of opening discussions with agencies where the union represents employees about how their workplaces should be changed in preparation for the end of maximum telework.