In an unprecedented change in course, City Hall has announced that they will consider municipal workers’ previous demand for hybrid work. The city has agreed to have discussions as part of the current contract talks with a municipal union. The city has previously stated that they were making a shift away from remote work as part of the COVID-19 recovery plan.
Carl Cook, Vice President for negotiations and research for SSEU Local 371, said, “Previously, the city had made it clear that they were not interested in negotiations regarding telework/hybrid schedules for the union’s members.” He continued, “However, after the persistence of the union and its representatives, the city has changed its position and will now review the demand.”
SSEU Local 371 is under DC37, which is the city’s largest municipal union. Local 371 mostly represents social service workers in New York. DC 37 represents 150,000 members as well as 50,000 retirees. During his campaign for Mayor, Eric Adams was endorsed by DC37. Following the expiration of the contracts and ongoing negotiations, the union posted an update on the process on their Twitter stating, “The union, representing its members, brought forward several demands, including the implementation of a telework/hybrid schedule for job titles that are able to work a few days during the week from home.”
The message from the union continued, “Other demands that the union brought forward include a pay increase, retroactivity, and a continued fight for zero percent health care premiums. These demands were made to ensure that our members receive fair and just contracts.”
New York City Mayor Eric Adams has repeatedly stated that he believes it is important for city employees to work in the office. He has been vocal about his stance opposing remote/hybrid work. In the COVID-19 Recovery Plan, Adams argued that the city needs to “set an example for the private sector.”
Mayor Adams has insisted that the survival of New York City’s many business districts relies on workers returning to the office. However, with COVID-19 forcing many people to work from home to prevent the spread of infection, city employees argue that they can be just as productive working from home as they are when working in an office.
The business advocacy group The Partnership for New York City released data from a survey they conducted on Thursday, February 2nd, that saw 82% of employers state that a hybrid schedule will be the “predominant policy” at their companies in 2023.
The city has been facing a crisis when it comes to open job listings. There are many vacancies at various city agencies with many people feeling discouraged from applying for the available positions due to the lack of remote/hybrid options. Changing course and allowing for a remote/hybrid model would alleviate the vacancy problem for many city jobs across a variety of agencies.
When discussing the matter, Labor Historian at CUNY Joshua Freeman said, “No one really knows what post-pandemic urban life will look like. Both pieces of the mayor’s concern are understandable.”
He continued, “At some point, it’s pretty hard to have a successful and motivated workforce if you’re forcing them into something they hate doing.”