Essential Personnel Update

Updated: March 16, 2020
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Colleagues:

I am writing to clarify the PSC’s position on whether PSC-represented employees should report to work today. The union’s position, consistent with the directive by the governor and with CUNY’s announcement at 7:06 last night, is that no one except previously designated “essential personnel” should work on campus or at other CUNY workplaces today.

The PSC has demanded that CUNY clarify the announcement that colleges may designate any CUNY facility they wish as “essential” and the implication that employees other than those officially named “essential personnel” are required to work on site today. We further demand that CUNY Central issue all future announcements that may need to be made during this emergency and that such announcements be comprehensive and unequivocal.

“Essential personnel” know who they are. “Essential personnel” and “essential staff” are technical terms typically referring to workers in healthcare, security, sanitation, certain maintenance positions, first responders and others. It does not mean anyone a college president wishes to have at work.

CUNY central’s subsequent announcement that “School presidents and deans may decide at their discretion which facilities on their campuses, such as libraries and laboratories, are essential” contradicts the first announcement and dangerously misrepresents what “essential” means in an emergency situation.

We are in an emergency situation right now. It is irresponsible to give individual college presidents and deans the power to put workers in danger based simply on their own “discretion.”

Employees represented by the PSC who have not been officially designated “essential personnel” should not report to a CUNY workplace today. Your own safety, our students’ safety, and the safety of the city are at stake. Even if your supervisor has told you that a lab or library on your campus is “essential” and that therefore you, as someone who normally works in that lab or library must come in, do not report for work. Contact the union office at psc@pscmail.org and provide details of your situation.

If you are told that you must report to work and you are not an officially designated “essential” staff member, notify your supervisor that you are following the advice of your union and the initial announcement of the chancellor by staying home. To the best of your ability, begin working remotely, and carefully document the work you do from home.

The PSC will vigorously defend anyone who experiences negative repercussions because she or he followed the chancellor’s announcement, as well as other public directives, and worked from home today.

We will continue to update members as needed.

In solidarity,
Barbara Bowen
President, PSC/CUNY