To the Editor: Since the onset of the pandemic, responses of city agencies and authorities on policies for time-keeping, reasonable accommodations, leave time, family leave, support (or not) for working remotely, etc., have been all over the map, with little or no coordination between agencies. City workers were, and are, scrambling to figure it all out, keep working, keep the city running, and stay safe.

But one of the most-egregious reactions has to be the policy at the New York City Housing Authority of granting managers—only managers—up to three days a week telework. This policy was announced in July, implemented in September, and has remained in place since. As a quality-of-work-life issue, and a safety issue, it's nothing short of inexplicable.

Management has agreed to negotiate with some unions over this, but nothing has changed to date. For now, union staff take crowded subways and work in buildings with poor ventilation, while new cases due to Omicron are announced every day.

It's not even clear that NYCHA was obligated to follow the City Hall mandate for a 100-percent staff return to the office. Their claims that they would grant remote working to all staff but are bound by bargaining don't hold up. There's no rationale for such disparate treatment between managers and staff, especially during the pandemic.

This doesn't just affect the staff who can work remotely. The three-quarters of NYCHA staff who work on site, in some of the roughest jobs, and have been doing so since the start of the pandemic, are also hit when management has the option of remote working. And anything that affects safety affects the residents, who have been hit disproportionately hard by the coronavirus.

It's old news that the pandemic hasn't treated everyone equally. Working people, people of low income, of color, immigrants, have borne the brunt. As it is, the staff at NYCHA are stretched thin. Public housing has been grossly underfunded for 40 years, and NYCHA has lost almost 25 percent of its staffing complement since 2000.

NYCHA's only tangible response is privatization. That policy they pursue vigorously. Treating the residents and staff with respect is another story. The staff worked very successfully remotely for 18 months, by NYCHA's own statements. There's no reason not to give equal treatment to everyone now.


Local 375, DC 37


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