Updated: Jul 7
DHA is beginning to implement a temporary telework plan for select workers in an attempt to limit the total number of employees at Bureaus during the current surge in COVID cases. The Department views these changes as temporary and plans to return workers to their regular schedules sometime in February, pending changes in case rates and advice from public health. Throughout the pandemic, UPE has advocated teleworking for our workers and supports any effort to limit worker exposure in the office. The Department is still developing these plans, and UPE intends to meet with the Department to review the details and continue our advocacy for safer workplaces.
At the same time, UPE learned that 28th Street was going forward with a plan to send ASOS and Supervisors home but not the workers they manage. Removing these staff would not make those left in the building safer. These staff already have offices with doors. Sending management staff home while keeping line workers in the building is a slap in the face. These supervisors and managers are being rewarded with safety because they are less critical to the operation of the County than UPE staff. If these supervisors and managers mattered, they would still be in the office. UPE immediately contacted upper management, and the Department rescinded the directive.
If the Department had the forethought and care, everyone would be at home. In March of 2020, UPE proposed that the Department procure the equipment necessary to allow their workers to telework. Eventually, the Department purchased a little over 100 Cradle Point Routers, which would enable workers to conduct business from home over the phone as if they were in their office. These were largely distributed to workers with ADA accommodations. These devices work! UPE has not heard of any issues with worker productivity while teleworking. UPE proposed and continues to propose that additional units be purchased to allow more workers to work from home. We have also proposed that the Department explore other options besides the Cradle Point. The Department refused. Had the Department taken UPE's advice and invested in the infrastructure necessary, they would not be in the position they are today, with over 70 staff testing positive for COVID by January 10th. The Department continues to act as if COVID-19 is gone when it is the worst it has ever been. Once again, the Department has been caught with their pants down and are now scrambling to do something they could have been working on for years at this point.
Workers have every right to be outraged at the treatment they have received from the County and Department. Workers deserve better. UPE is beginning contract negotiations, and workers must stand ready to demonstrate their anger towards the County when needed.