A Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Oct. 18 granted a temporary restraining order blocking the Housing Authority from further scheduling Caretakers, Supervisors and other titles to work evenings and weekends after Teamsters Local 237 cited concern for its members’ safety.

In January, the union negotiated a contract that included the first work-schedule change in 50 years. Previously, shifts were confined to weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Greater Flexibility

The agreement allows Caretakers, Supervisors of Caretakers and Superintendents to work one of five schedules: the traditional weekday hours, or four other schedules that provide four-day work weeks. Staff can choose to work four days a week from 6 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., or from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., with weekend assignments every other week.

The extended work schedules are a key part of NYCHA’s efforts to meet deadlines imposed under the city’s agreement with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to address unsafe and unsanitary conditions such as leaks, pests and mold.

NYCHA kicked off the alternative work schedules in April at 13 developments in Brooklyn and Manhattan, and expanded to 39 other developments by late June.

But Gregory Floyd, president of Local 237, which represents about 8,000 NYCHA employees, said that the agency has not remedied safety hazards that labor officials repeatedly brought up. He said that the union wants doors to be secured (many buildings across NYCHA’s 325 developments have broken front doors) and for broken lights to be repaired.

“We said from the beginning that we wanted safety checks. At 7 p.m. during the winter it’s dark—and crime goes up in NYCHA when it’s dark,” Mr. Floyd said during a phone interview. “We’re seeking the Housing Authority to address our checklist of safety concerns, I don’t think that’s too much to ask for.”

Crime Up Within HA

While there has been a dip in crimes citywide so far this year, there was a 5-percent increase in the seven index crimes within NYCHA developments, according to Police Department data. Murders jumped 17 percent between January and Sept. 1 compared to the same period last year, and shootings increased 13 percent.

Staff at 38 additional developments who chose an alternative work schedule were supposed to start working the extended hours this month, but in response to the union’s petition, a judge temporarily blocked NYCHA from assigning any of the substitute shifts. Employees will instead work traditional shifts with scheduled weekend overtime, according to the agency.

“We are disappointed that Local 237 took this action, especially given the hard work that went into the negotiations leading to AWS, and the benefits it will bring to our residents,” said NYCHA spokeswoman Barbara Brancaccio. “We look forward to making full arguments to the court next week, resolving this matter and moving forward with this important program, which is key to meeting our obligations under the HUD agreement.”

A hearing on the matter has been set for Oct. 31, according to the Local 237 website. The alternative work schedules were set to become available at every development by early next year, NYCHA stated.

Protest Late Wednesdays

The union has also filed an improper practice petition with the Office of Collective Bargaining regarding NYCHA’s unilateral decision to have Housing Managers work until 7:30 p.m. on Wednesdays. HA extended Housing Managers, Assistant Housing Managers and Housing Assistants’ Wednesday hours temporarily over the summer, but the union stated that the Authority has “ignored our previous agreement to stop scheduling” evening hours after Labor Day.

Local 237 officials argued that this was in direct violation of its contract, which states that “in the event that NYCHA seeks to add titles other than Caretakers and Supervisors to the AWS program, NYCHA must negotiate with Local 237 over the terms, conditions and implementation of AWSs for those additional titles.”

The grievance also cited safety concerns for Housing Managers working evening hours, claiming that they were “oftentimes alone” and “[bore] the brunt” of tenants’ anger because they were responsible for collecting payments from those who were behind in rent.

Top Photo courtesy of NYCHA

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