During his speech to Congress on March 1, 2022, President Biden said the federal workforce should serve as a model for more Americans to return to the office and directed the “vast majority” of federal employees to return to the office next month – April 2022.
In April 2022, the Department notified AFGE Local 17 that bargaining unit employees were to return to the office by May 30th. The Department provided no plan other than their notice of intent that May 30th was the deadline. Local 17 understood the strain this would place on many employees because many of us have been teleworking full time since March 2020. Often, employees were able to accomplish more work without the time-consuming, stressful commute and the time required to get ready for work. Parents also adjusted their schedules around daycare and school. Some employees had children during the pandemic and thus never experienced the strain of dropping off and picking up children from daycare. It’s tough. We heard your concerns and poured a considerable amount of resources in getting the best deal possible for you.
During the first two weeks of negotiations, the Department refused to budge on the reentry date of May 30th. I’m delighted to say that the Department finally agreed to allow employees a 30-day grace period to remain on their current telework schedules as well as a 45-day grace period while their mass transit subsidies are being processed. And employees who moved outside the commuting area during the pandemic may request to retain their current telework agreements. Other provisions in the MOU offer flexibility and ensure the smoothest transition possible. We expect that issues will arise, however, which Local 17 will address on your behalf.
Please review the entire Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for more details. This was truly a group effort, with stewards drafting proposals, doing legal research, and sitting at the virtual bargaining table for many hours. Local 17’s efforts on your behalf have resulted in greater flexibility and better terms than what many other Unions have been able to achieve at other agencies.
Douglas E. Massey, Esq.