NTEU Coronavirus Resources

Check back daily for updates and news from NTEU.

 
NTEU Members: Login for agency-specific resources and more.


We have reached out to each of the 33 federal agencies where NTEU represents federal employees to request pandemic plans. We will post agency pandemic plans on this page as we receive them.

NTEU is in constant contact with our chapter leaders so that we can address workplace issues related to the coronavirus. As the situation evolves, watch for member messages and new resources on this page.



Updates

April 14

Local NTEU Leaders Urge Resumption of Revised Schedules During Pandemic

Temporary shift adjustments for critical personnel at the nation’s ports should be reinstated immediately in order to better protect officers from coronavirus, according to an urgent letter from local union leaders to Customs and Border Protection and the Department of Homeland Security.

CBP revoked the slightly reduced work schedules for employees at the ports along both U.S. borders, despite a massive decrease in cross-border traffic and public health warnings to avoid close contact with others.

The National Treasury Employees Union, which represents about 25,000 frontline CBP employees nationally, said the revised schedules were crucial for protecting the health and safety of those in CBP whose vital security mission at the ports cannot be done by teleworking.

Presidents from 55 NTEU chapters representing tens of thousands of employees signed a letter that was delivered yesterday to the Acting Secretary of DHS Chad Wolf and Acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan.

"Granting employees paid administrative leave was a strong sign that CBP management valued the frontline workforce and placed their health and safety as a top priority. Rescinding the schedules has, unfortunately, squandered that goodwill,” the local NTEU leaders wrote.

Local port officials and NTEU chapters in late March jointly worked out the adjusted schedules to shorten the shifts of employees without disrupting port operations. The changes were tailored for each port, but many of them resulted in a 32-hour work week with 8 hours of weather and safety leave. While on leave, employees were subject to recall if needed at the port.

“The cooperation that led to the adjusted schedules was a model of how our federal government can operate with efficiency and effectiveness when labor and management work together,” the letter states.

CBP notified employees on April 6 that the local arrangements were canceled at ports along the northern and southern borders, allegedly because Border Patrol – which is separate from CBP Office of Field Operations – needed support. NTEU National President Tony Reardon has asked the agency to provide data about the extra need, but there has been no response.

As of yesterday, the agency reported 218 employees in all CBP divisions were confirmed to have contracted COVID-19.


CBP’s Dangerous Decision Puts More Employees in Harm’s Way

With no justification and no notice, prudent steps to protect the health and safety of Customs and Border Protection personnel have been withdrawn at land border ports. The National Treasury Employees Union today announced its objection to this sudden change.

CBP began notifying local NTEU representatives late Monday that local port arrangements to temporarily limit the amount of time employees spend in contact with travelers and coworkers are canceled at ports along the northern and southern borders. NTEU represents about 25,000 CBP employees in the Office of Field Operations who staff 328 airports, sea ports and land ports of entry around the country.

In a letter sent today to Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Chad Wolf and CBP Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan, the union asked for an immediate return to the reduced schedules.

“The temporarily revised work schedules in CBP’s Office of Field Operations that enabled more time off for Officers represented CBP at its best, responding to a crisis.  The adjustments were the product of urgent discussions between employee representatives and management, with the twin goals of delivering the mission while promoting the health of the Officers.  Indeed, those two goals merge, because effective mission delivery isn’t possible without a healthy workforce,” NTEU National President Tony Reardon wrote in the letter.

The agreements were reached in late March as the number of international travelers slowed and crossings at the northern and southern ports of entry dipped by as much as 75 percent. This allowed CBP to adjust schedules to limit the number of CBP personnel at ports while still meeting operational needs. It additionally provides a means to comply with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance to limit the spread of coronavirus by staying home and avoiding groups as much as possible. The agreements were a smart way for local port officials to protect their employees, follow public health recommendations and respond to the lower volumes of international travelers. Under the revised schedules, CBP employees on leave were subject to recall and had to be ready to return to the port at a moment’s notice, should the need arise.

As coronavirus began to spread in the United States, the ports—including airports and land border crossings—were fully staffed as personnel directly interacted with international travelers, many of whom came directly from or had recently traveled to other places where the virus was widely transmitted between individuals. That interaction has taken a toll on this frontline workforce that has more than 160 confirmed COVID-19 cases, according to CBP-wide figures, and many more employees in quarantine.

“CBP is making a grave mistake by rescinding these adjusted schedules,” Reardon said. “CBP has not given us a valid reason for sending more frontline federal employees into harm’s way than is necessary, so we are asking CBP leadership to reverse this short-sighted decision and restore the ports’ ability to protect the health and safety of CBP employees.”

CBP’s explanation that Border Patrol needs the assistance of port officers to stop an influx between the ports of illegal border crossers with COVID-19 is not backed up by any available evidence. By canceling the weather and safety leave, CBP will require personnel at the ports of entry to report to the port when there is no operational need putting these employees in unnecessary danger.

“CBP Office of Field Operations and Port Directors working collaboratively with employee representatives to protect federal workers without sacrificing agency mission sent an encouraging and strong message to CBP employees that CBP cares about their well-being and that of their families,” Reardon said. “That good will is now being squandered.”

NTEU Updates Checklist for Protecting Federal Workers

The National Treasury Employees Union today updated its checklist of steps the government can take to better protect federal employees from coronavirus, showing some progress over the last two weeks but still plenty of tasks that remain unfinished.

NTEU issued the list on March 16 in response to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announcement that gatherings of 50 or more people should be canceled for two months.

At that time, NTEU National President Tony Reardon called for the federal government to close all federal buildings where 50 or more employees are still required to report to work.

“Now, two weeks later, we still think this is the safest option for federal employees, many of whom continue working alongside hundreds of people, and growing increasingly anxious about their ability to remain healthy and protect their families,” Reardon said.

According to NTEU, federal agencies have fully completed only one of the eight items on the list: halting international and domestic travel for federal employees unless absolutely critical to public health and safety. As a result, many agencies have switched to online or telephone meetings and successfully cut down on the number of in-person gatherings.

In three other areas, NTEU reports partial progress: expanding telework, authorizing weather and safety leave for certain employees who are unable to telework, and extending the tax filing deadline.

"Some agencies have moved to maximum or mandatory telework policies, giving federal employees the ability to work from the safety of their own home while they keep doing the important work of the federal government,” Reardon said. “But there is still room for improvement because policies are being inconsistently applied.”

While the Treasury Department extended the tax filing deadline to July 15, NTEU continues to encourage an extension to Oct. 15 because it would alleviate the strain on IRS employees who are working on processing returns and allow the IRS to temporarily close facilities for a more thorough cleaning.

“Federal employees do essential work related to public health, stabilizing the economy and providing security, and this checklist is designed to allow that work to continue but in a way that keeps them out of harm’s way as much as possible,” Reardon said.

The full, updated checklist is HERE.

NTEU Pushing for Federal Employee Provisions in Coronavirus Bill

NTEU is working hard on Capitol Hill to make sure several provisions that support federal employees amid the ongoing crisis are included in the final coronavirus stimulus package being negotiated in Congress right now.

Much of the NTEU-supported language was outlined in a bill released in the House yesterday including: reimbursements for child and family care; hazard pay for CBP employees and others whose jobs put them at greater risk of COVID-19 exposure; additional funding for the IRS; and easing caps on overtime and premium pay for HHS.

The union is also supporting eliminating certain barriers to telework and some of the limits on emergency paid sick leave and extending to federal employees provisions of the Family and Medical Leave Act passed in the previous coronavirus relief bill.

The economic stimulus bill is still under intense negotiation. Lawmakers have already passed two other major legislative packages in response to the outbreak.

Check our coronavirus webpage for agency updates.


Ordered to the Office but Under a Shelter-in-Place Restriction?


NTEU has been hearing from union members whose states or cities have instituted shelter-in-place or lockdown orders but are being told by their supervisors to head into the office. On Friday, Attorney General William Barr issued guidance directly related to this question.   

In a memo to all U.S. Attorneys, Barr asked that state and local law enforcement be made aware that federal employees nationwide can commute and travel on official business during the coronavirus pandemic.

"If encountered by local law enforcement during such travel, federal employees shall identify themselves using their Personal Identification Verification cards, and explain the nature of their work and travel," the memo states.

In short, the Attorney General has determined that federal employees are exempt from the order and must go into their workplaces if necessary to perform essential functions or complete periodic tasks.

NTEU remains concerned about the health of employees who are compelled to travel to work contrary to local shelter-in-place orders.

NTEU Continues to Urge Closures of Federal Buildings

NTEU continues to call for the closure of federal buildings with 50 or more employees to protect workers and their families during the coronavirus pandemic.

Yesterday, National President Tony Reardon sent a letter to the head of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), asking that the government take this immediate action to comply with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"So far throughout this crisis, many federal employees have not been given information they need from their agencies and are confused and frustrated, fearing for their health and that of their colleagues and loved ones," Reardon wrote. "Taking this decisive action will make it clear that the government cares for the well-being of its employees and is ready to lead by following the advice of its own public health officials."

The letter reiterates one of the eight actions NTEU pressed the federal government to immediately take in a checklist the union released on Monday.

Learn more about our efforts

OMB Instructs Agencies to Limit In-Person Contact, Maximize Telework

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on Tuesday issued a memo directing agencies to adjust their operations to focus on “mission-critical” services limit face-to-face interactions.

This memo instructs agencies “to minimize face-to-face interactions, especially at those offices or sites where people may be gathering in close proximity or where highly vulnerable populations obtain services.” Exceptions may be needed when continued operations and services are necessary to protect public health and safety, including law enforcement.

Telework should be maximized nationwide, the memo states, and mandated if necessary while maintaining mission-critical workforce needs.

While some agencies have done the right thing in expanding telework options, others have not. NTEU continues to strongly press agencies where we represent employees to move all eligible federal employees to fulltime telework, waive reporting requirements and . review all positions not eligible for telework to determine if some of the work can be done remotely.

Second Coronavirus Funding Bill Signed into Law

Last night, the president signed into law a second supplemental funding bill to address the coronavirus pandemic. Here are some key provisions of the bill:

  • In addition to other leave federal employees may be eligible for during this crisis, the bill provides two weeks of sick leave to employees affected by the pandemic, including those who are required to quarantine, to care for family members who have the virus or are in quarantine, or to care for children whose school or child care facility has been closed. 

  • After two weeks, under the expansion of the Family and Medical Leave Act, an additional 10 weeks of leave will be available to those still impacted at a rate equal to at least two-thirds of the employee’s pay. This paid leave is not to exceed $200 per day or a total of $10,000 and there are some exclusions for health care providers and emergency responders.

  • Free COVID-19 testing without co-pays or deductibles.

The first relief bill, signed March 6, was largely dedicated to funding healthcare preparation to fight the virus, vaccine research and remote doctor visits. Checks for Americans are currently being discussed as part of a third relief bill.


NTEU Checklist: Close Federal Buildings with 50 or More Workers

The federal government should follow the directions of its own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and close all federal buildings with 50 or more employees, NTEU National President Tony Reardon said Monday. Many federal employees in these buildings are not telework eligible and work in very close proximity to one another.

The CDC announced Sunday that gatherings of 50 or more people should be canceled for the next eight weeks. In order to slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect federal employees and their families, Reardon argued the guidance should immediately be applied to federal workplaces.

"The half-measures taken so far are not enough because too many government workers are still working in full or nearly full offices," Reardon said. "Closing buildings halts the large gatherings, just as CDC recommends, allows telework to continue and provides weather and safety leave -- as opposed to personal leave -- for those who have jobs that are not eligible for telework."

Reardon acknowledged the policy would be unprecedented and would necessarily exempt federal workplaces where employees perform national security, highly classified or crucial public health work.

"This is a chance for the government to lead by strictly following the advice of its own public health officials," Reardon said. "State and local officials and private companies are all ramping down, and the federal government -- where possible -- should do the same."

This action is one of eight that NTEU believes the federal government should take immediately to further protect federal employees around the country.  They include removing all barriers to telework; extending administrative leave to employees where school is closed or they have family members who are quarantined or self-isolating; halting all travel; and making coronavirus testing available to federal employees, free of charge, if their doctor recommends it.

The full checklist is attached and available here.



NTEU Conducts Coronavirus Briefing with National Media

On March 12, a dozen news outlets including The New York Times, Washington Post and Federal News Network joined National President Tony Reardon for a telephone media briefing on the coronavirus and federal employees.

Reardon shared NTEU’s perspective on actions federal agencies are taking, and not taking, to protect their workforces during the pandemic. 

“Too many civil servants around the country are working needlessly in crowded offices, commuting on public transportation when they could be working from home, and they are completely in the dark about what happens if their children’s school closes or their coworker has symptoms of the virus. This is unacceptable,” Reardon told reporters.

As the largest workforce in the country, changing how federal employees do their jobs can help slow the spread of coronavirus. Telework, social distancing, providing protective equipment and stopping non-essential travel—these are the steps the administration can take to protect federal workers, their families, their communities and the members of the public that they serve every day.

With regard to telework, Reardon echoed that many NTEU-represented agencies have a program in place, adding that telework is the absolute “easiest, cheapest, least disruptive thing agencies can do to stop community spread.” NTEU is calling on agencies to expand telework to as many positions as possible and waive any reporting requirements for employees with a recurring telework schedule.  

NTEU has requested more social distancing in workplaces, possibly adjusting work schedules, stopping all in-person meetings and switching to teleconferences or web-based meetings.

But perhaps the most glaring issue for NTEU concerns the lack of communication from federal agencies. For weeks, NTEU has requested pandemic plans or any other guidance the union can help disseminate to members. The response has been mixed. For those agencies that have responded to the union’s requests, NTEU has created on online resource bank on our website. We are encouraging members and all federal employees to visit frequently for news, updates, and agency-specific plans.

A survey of NTEU chapter leaders backs this up. The vast majority say that management has not provided any agency-specific information or guidance as to what happens when a coworker contracts COVID-19. Many chapter presidents report they have only received general guidelines from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). This information void has left NTEU leaders inundated with questions from employees about what to do about leave, vacations, meetings, work trips and concern for their personal health. Chapter leaders also responded that morale is very low.

While there is no one clear approach to ensuring the health and safety of federal employees, Reardon told reporters, the administration needs to empower managers and supervisors to start making decisions that are in the best interests of their employees and the health and welfare of the American public.


Federal Agencies Slow to Respond to Coronavirus

As the coronavirus threat grew across the country, NTEU contacted each of the 33 agencies where we represent employees to get their pandemic plans and urge agencies to take important steps to keep employees safe

The response has been uneven with a handful of agencies taking positive action while others are lagging behind. NTEU believes it is in your best interest and the government’s to be proactive in helping curb the spread of the coronavirus rather than reacting after it has entered a federal workplace.

Here are the basic actions NTEU has been asking from agencies:

Broaden telework programs to cover as many employees as possible;

Halt all non-essential travel;

Make changes in highly-populated workspaces to increase social distancing; and

Ensure that all workplaces are properly cleaned and stocked with sanitizers and disinfectant wipes.

Along with these commonsense steps, we are also asking agencies to address the needs of their workforces performing unique duties, including employees with a high degree of public contact.

As NTEU receives information from agencies, it is posted on our coronavirus webpage. We are frequently updating the agency information, and some of this may have been sent to you directly. Our goal is to provide you with as much information as we have as quickly as possible.

Watch for updates from NTEU in your email and stay up to date by visiting our coronavirus webpage daily. Along with agency-specific information, the page contains links to guidance from the Office of Personnel Management and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

If you have immediate questions and concerns, contact your NTEU representative.


Senators Call on OPM to Ensure Employees Are Protected as Coronavirus Spreads

A group of senators is calling on the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to prioritize the health and safety of employees by expanding telework and clarifying that those who stay home because they exhibit symptoms won’t be penalized.

“While the spread of COVID-19 is likely to affect different individuals, families, and communities differently, it is increasingly likely that a significant number of Americans will need to practice social distancing in some way, be it due to illness, testing, treatment, or quarantining. As the largest employer in the nation, it is paramount that the federal government lead by example and prioritize the health, economic well-being, and security of its employees and contractors as we mobilize to respond to the recent outbreak and spread of COVID-19,” eight senators wrote to OPM Director Dale Cabaniss.

The elected officials wrote that OPM should do more to support federal workers, some of whom face exposure to the virus on the job. Specifically, they urged Cabaniss to:

-Clarify that employees and contractors who follow Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance will not be at risk of losing income or disciplinary actions.

-Issue guidance telling employees and contractors they will not have to choose between financial obligations and following health protection guidance.

-Direct agencies to expand telework policies.

-Tell employees and contractors they aren’t expected to work if they’re caring for a loved one (even if they have exhausted paid leave benefits).

-Educate agencies and their human resources departments on the types of paid leave workers can use.

-Work with health insurance companies to make sure employees can afford preventative care and treatment in the event they contract the virus.

NTEU appreciates and shares the concern that these senators have for federal employees. The union continues to press agencies for information about their coronavirus plans to make sure they are taking the necessary steps to protect employees. link