June 3, 2021
I hope this message finds you well as we head into the summer months. I’m writing today with some information on the use of the Remote Work Agreement that was recently disseminated by CUNY. I want to remind you that this is something that the PSC negotiated with CUNY. There are some strong protections and reiterations of PSC contractual protections in the agreement, such as the 35-hour work week and the “right to disconnect.” There are also some questions and concerns members have expressed that I’d like to address here. After this stressful and challenging year and knowing how much members have given of themselves to keep the University running remotely, we remain committed to a safe and smooth transition back to some in-person work.
First, the Remote Work Agreement is different from an ADA accommodation or accommodation for COVID-related health issues. If you need an accommodation, follow this procedure. Any staff who do some, or all, of their work at home should be asked to fill out the Remote Work Agreement. We encourage you to work out an agreement with your supervisor and then complete the form because of the protections and assurances it provides. (There’s more information below under “process” about some strategies to reach a fair agreement with your supervisor.)
As per our contract, anyone who is asked to return to in-person work has a right to return to a workplace “which is free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious harm…” Checking to make sure your workplace is in compliance with PSC’s Standards for Safe Opening is one way to make sure your return to work is safe. If you feel your campus isn’t complying with any of these standards, you can reach out to your Chapter Chair or the Health and Safety Watchdogs about a strategy to gain compliance.
CUNY and PSC agreed that the Remote Work Form is a way for a conversation to be had and an agreement to be made between the supervisor and the employee. CUNY’s website states: “CUNY may permit an employee to work at home for all or part of their regular workweek. This type of alternative work arrangement may not be appropriate for all positions or employees.”
CUNY has told colleges that they may not add a new layer of approval to the agreement and the form may not be modified in any way. This is not to say that, as always, supervisors will not be given guidelines by the college administration, or that the college administration is not being given a goal set by the Chancellery. As you know, colleges have generally been asked to aim for a 60% return to in-person work in the Fall. There are many reasons for colleges to request that exceptions be made due to the differing nature of CUNY facilities, space capacities, operational needs and for health and safety reasons. Regardless of other conversations and decisions that college administrations are making, each employee should speak with their supervisor to discuss where and how work should be done at this time. We aim to continue to serve our students and colleges in the efficient and excellent ways they are accustomed to in a safe and productive environment.
You can and should work together with your colleagues. If you do not come to an agreement with your supervisor, it may be helpful for you to speak to colleagues in your office and in your PSC chapter about approaching your supervisor(s) collectively. You may also want to engage your supervisor in conversation with others at your college to help you come to an agreement. If you feel that any retaliation, inequity or discrimination played into the decision made by your supervisor, reach out to the grievance counselor assigned to your campus.
As you know, management assigns our work, including our work location, based on “operational needs.” CUNY is not unilaterally calling everyone back to fully on-site work. CUNY’s website, under CUNY Flexible Work Guidelines, lists these as “possible scenarios” listed for remote work:
- Combination of remote and on-premise workdays (i.e., 2 days remote, 3 days on site)
- Combination of remote and on-site work weeks (every other)
- Condensed work week (in line with current guidelines for “Summer Fridays” where employees work 35 hours over Monday-Thursday with Friday off)
- Flex start/end times
- Full time remote
One final note, last year we had a strong action, Own Your Annual Leave Day, around being allowed to extend the use of accumulated leave. This year, the PSC has again negotiated an extension on the time to use the accumulated leave through the end of this calendar year.
I wish you all a wonderful summer and a well-deserved break.
First Vice President, PSC/CUNY