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Williams: Give city workers a hybrid option


With coronavirus cases once again increasing citywide, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams is urging the Adams administration to establish a hybrid work model for city employees.

The city’s seven-day average Covid positivity rate was 14.9 percent as of July 15, nearly double what it was a month ago. Transmission levels jumped 33 percent from the previous week.

Acknowledging the surge, Williams earlier this month said it was “past time” for the city to build and support a hybrid work model for municipal employees.

'A new reality'

"Private companies are recognizing the new reality and offering hybrid options to prospective employees, and the city should be leading as a model, not lagging behind and losing valuable talent by creating unnecessary barriers and risks,” he said in a July 8 statement. “While clearly not all municipal jobs have the potential for hybrid work, exploring and enabling hybrid systems wherever possible is essential for a safer city and stronger workforce.”

Although the majority of city workers never stopped working in-person, about 80,000 city employees were able to work remotely until they were ordered to return to the office last fall. District Council 37, the largest union representing the city’s municipal workforce, has repeatedly urged telework options for city employees.

“Our workers need every available alternative to perform their jobs safely and efficiently, including a teleworking policy that allows for flexibility in times of uncertainty. As COVID cases continue to rise once again, those employees whose jobs can be performed from home should be given the option to do so,” DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido said in a statement.

A slew of city employees has left civil-service. In March 2019 and March 2020, the city’s job vacancy rate was 1.5 percent. As of March 2022, it was 7.7 percent, according to data from the Citizens Budget Commission.

The number of full-time city employees has fallen to 283,000 from 300,000 before the pandemic because of attrition, the city’s Independent Budget Office reported in May.

Staffing shortages at the Department of Housing Preservation and Development have slowed down affordable housing projects, while nearly a quarter of jobs at the Department of Buildings are unfilled.

Fabien Levy, a spokesperson for Mayor Eric Adams, said that “the city has faced no operational impact to services with the vacancies that exist, but we are recruiting aggressively for every vacant position.”

In May, the mayor’s chief of staff doubled down on the city’s mandate that public employees must be working from the office on a full-time basis. Adams has insisted on city staffers returning to work in-person on a full-time basis to help revive the city’s economy.

Although there are several reasons for the high vacancy rate — nationwide staffing shortages, a hiring freeze implemented by the city early in the pandemic, and, in many cases, people leaving for higher wages in the private-sector — some former civil servants pointed to the lack of flexibility as a reason for their exit.

Jeremiah Cedeño, co-founder of advocate group City Workers For Justice, previously told this newspaper that he left his job at the Human Resources Administration for a nonprofit position that offers full-time remote work and a better salary. Daniel Irizarry, who left his job as an attorney at the city’s Human Rights Commission in May, told The New York Times last week that he was disappointed by the Mayor’s comments that municipal employees needed to be in the office in order to boost the city’s finances.

“It was kind of a slap in the face to say we have to support the economy without regard to people’s health concerns,” he told the newspaper.

The public advocate noted that his own staffers are currently working remotely, and will continue to work from home on a part-time basis when they do return to the office. Williams acknowledged that in order for the city to best serve its residents, “it must hire and retain the best employees. Right now, the administration is chasing them away.”



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  • Bingo

    I had covid twice in as many years took the required quarantine days off then right back to work , I see that school teachers are the biggest cry babies than comes the office workers who generally hate their jobs anyway just fire them all hire people who want and or need a job.

    Tuesday, July 19, 2022 Report this