Non-union city workers get telework option.

The pilot program allowing some city workers represented by District Council 37 to work remotely up to two days a week will be expanded to city managers and other non-unionized employees, according to City Hall. Story from The Chief by Crystal Lewis, October 23.

About 16,500 city employees are not represented by a union and may be qualified for the program, City Hall announced Monday. Agency heads will determine who is eligible for the benefit, which will then be reviewed by the Flexible Work Committee that was established as part of DC 37’s pilot program.

Administration officials did not reply to emails inquiring about the program’s start. But the news site Gothamist reported that non-unionized city workers who can perform their tasks and duties from home will be able to telework part-time starting Dec. 1.

“New Yorkers deserve the best services government can offer, and our secret weapon is the most talented, hardest-working workforce in the world,” Mayor Eric Adams said in a statement issued Monday morning. “Public servants deliver for New Yorkers through the city’s most urgent crises, and now it’s time for us to support them as they have supported us. With the success of our initial remote work pilots for tens of thousands of union-represented employees, we are proud to expand this benefit to the thousands of non-represented public servants who work tirelessly for our city day in and day out.”

About 80,000 city employees were able to work remotely during the Covid pandemic until they were ordered to return to the office during the fall of 2021 under then-Mayor Bill de Blasio.

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 after DC 37 repeatedly made telework options a demand during contract negotiations, the city and the union agreed to a flexible-work pilot program as part of the contract agreement reached earlier this year.

So far, 20,000 workers across 34 agencies who are represented by the union have started working from home on a part-time basis, Daniel Pollak, first deputy commissioner at the Mayor’s Office of Labor Relations, testified during a City Council hearing on telework earlier this month. Administrative managers, associate call center representatives and other employees represented by the Communications Workers of America Local 1180 will also be eligible to work from home two days a week once their recent contract agreement is ratified. 

The pilot program for both DC 37 members and non-unionized employees is set to last until May 31, 2025, with the option to be extended for an additional year. The city informed agencies about the pilot’s expansion to include non-unionized workers Friday, according to Gothamist.

Unions, workers and City Council members have argued that telework options are key to attracting and retaining municipal workers, which is especially important at a time when city agencies are dealing with widespread staffing shortages amid budget cuts and a hiring freeze.

Darrell Sims, president of the Managerial Employees Association, and the MEA’s executive director, Alice Wong, have cited the lack of remote work opportunities as a reason why city managers were experiencing low morale. They have advocated for the city to grant managers the right to work from home, particularly because they were unable to collectively bargain for a telework program.

“The New York City Managerial Employees Association applauds Mayor Adams and his administration for being inclusive with the implementation of the remote work program by including managers and non-union employees in this initiative,” Wong told The Chief. “Working remotely is a very relevant and viable option for employees during emergencies and a means to improve work-life balance. It is an incentive for the retention of the existing workforce and enhances competitive recruitment of new employees from the private sector.”

Dawn Pinnock, commissioner of the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, said that the Adams administration is working to “position the City of New York as an employer of choice.”

“Our efforts have yielded a citywide reduction in vacancies and have improved many of the pathways into public service,” she added.