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A pilot program that will allow eligible city employees represented by District Council 37 to work from home up to two days a week launched Thursday, the union and Mayor Eric Adams announced.
Although it is unclear how many city agencies will participate in the program, the pilot will provide an opportunity for thousands of municipal workers to work from home for the first time since former Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered city employees to return to their offices in the fall of 2021.
DC 37, which represents a range of titles including school lunch employees, parks workers, engineers and architects, has estimated that about 25,000 of the 90,000 members covered under the union's most recent contract will be eligible for remote work.
The city has not yet announced which titles will qualify for the pilot program. City Hall stated that agencies will determine who is eligible based on whether their tasks can be performed remotely and on recent job performance. Agencies will submit a list of eligible employees, which will then have to be approved by the flexible work committee before the workers can officially begin the pilot.
Eligible employees will receive an acknowledgement form informing them that they are qualified to participate in remote work, according to the union. Those who do not wish to work from home will not be required to do so.
“The world of work has changed, and this remote-hybrid pilot is one tool in our arsenal to provide a flexible workplace that still delivers the best services for New Yorkers,” said Henry Garrido, DC 37’s executive director. “The flexible work committee will continue to review city agencies’ plans for implementing hybrid work along with compressed tours, flex time and other alternative schedules for those members whose job functions are not conducive to remote work. We’re appreciative of the partnership with Mayor Adams and [Labor] Commissioner [Renee] Campion for bringing this pilot program to life.”
Garrido also thanked the members of the flexible work committee for “representing the interests and varied needs of our membership” in coming up with the program.
A memo from Adams’ chief of staff, Camille Varlack, stated that the pilot was expected to launch in the Department of Buildings and the Department of Social Services, the Daily News reported two weeks ago.
From 'remote' chance to reality
DC 37, the largest union of city workers, repeatedly advocated for telework options for municipal employees, making the establishment of a remote work option for workers capable of fulfilling their tasks from home one of their demands during contract negotiations. Last year, the Adams administration doubled down on the city’s mandate that public employees must be working from the office on a full-time basis, with the mayor insisting that city staffers return in-person to help revive the city’s economy.
But during the weeks leading up to a contract deal being reached, the Adams administration changed course and said it would consider negotiating a remote work option.
“We heard DC 37 workers loud and clear over the course of our latest round of contract negotiations and agreed to establish a flexible work committee as part of the agreement,” Campion said.
The union and the city were tasked with establishing a flexible work committee that would produce a flexible work pilot program by June 1 as part of the contract agreement, which was reached in February.
“As we make this shift into a post-pandemic reality for offices, we must do it in a thoughtful way in partnership with our union leaders,” Adams said. “I have always said that any flexible work programs the city offers must acknowledge the reality that there are some roles that cannot be performed remotely. This new pilot program will protect core services that New Yorkers rely on while offering city workers additional flexibility in their schedules.”
Many city employees and unions have argued that the lack of flexible work options has contributed to the large number of vacancies in the city workforce. As of April, there were nearly 23,000 unfilled positions, and 26 agencies had vacancy rates that exceeded 10 percent, according to data cited at a recent City Council hearing on the matter.
DC 37 and the city signed the flexible work pilot agreement Wednesday; the pilot will run through May 31, 2025, and can be renewed for an additional year. It’s expected to serve as a model for unions representing other city employees to also negotiate remote work programs.
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