If any number of employees were allowed to work remotely during the pandemic, your agency is contemplating returning them to work. Even if they don’t yet have policy (or haven’t shared that one is being developed), they are planning for one.
We will have a right to bargain over that plan. Some of the bargaining will be substantive, and some if it will just be procedures and appropriate arrangements —just like when we bargain a CBA.
The health and safety requirements for returning employees to work are significant. The amount of planning an agency needs to do to begin returning employees to work is substantial. The requirements set out by OSHA and OPM lay out the parameters of the sort of work an agency should be doing, and those represent the foundation for this information request.
Experience has borne out that a number of agencies are proposing to return employees to work without having done the necessary planning, creating a danger to the employees, the communities they work in, and the integrity of the mission. As such, it is very important that we make sure agencies who have not yet begun to return employees to work do it right.
This information request is intended to check the boxes for the work the Agency needs to do before drafting a return to work plan. Gaps in this work —which will reveal themselves if the Agency does not have information to share for one of these items —represent a danger to the bargaining unit. If the Agency says they don’t have information relating to any of these items, engage them on that point: do they have any plans, insight or thoughts about the specific risk being addressed? If not, doesn’t that mean their plan is incomplete, and that they are willfully ignoring a threat to Agency employees’ health?
This bargaining is some of the most important bargaining we will ever do; we are working to keep people safe during a pandemic that has killed hundreds of thousands of people. Your agency has an obligation to make sure it is keeping people safe, and it is up to us to make sure they do.
If you need assistance, please reach out to your district and/or FSED. We are eager to help.