Coronavirus Update | When and How Are We Returning to the Office
As federal, state and local leadership grapple with what it means to re-open, many of us are facing deep concerns about safely returning to offices and workspaces where companies have yet to institute appropriate measures to guarantee the safety of workers. Though COVID-19 cases in New York City continue to decline, a cautionary tale is unfolding across the country as cases rise dramatically in California, Florida, and elsewhere. At the same time, we’re also struggling with working remotely for an extended period, by some estimates well into 2021 or 2022, while managing the requirements for distance learning with children and elder care with older, vulnerable adults.
Companies like The New York Times are anticipating that most employees will return after the new year. Other media companies have set “sometime this fall” as an undefined target, while a small number of Guild members’ employers have started inviting and in some limited cases mandating — after negotiating with the Guild — that workers return to their offices as of July 20, the start of Phase 4 in NYC.
Everyone has the right to a safe work environment. The Guild’s local-wide Health and Safety Committee has created guidelines, based upon recommendations from our national union, TNG-CWA, for returning to the office. Every workplace is different, and the needs of employees vary. For some, striking a balance between privacy and safety is paramount. For others, it’s about pushing back return dates. How will the office be reconfigured to maintain social distancing? What happens to the data collected through third-party health apps employers want us to download? How will work schedules and productivity be adjusted to reflect the increased burdens of working through a pandemic?
Whatever the concerns of your workplace, these guidelines are meant both to be the starting point of discussions with colleagues and to provide actual recommendations to implement. Review them with your colleagues and talk to your unit leadership about how to develop and advocate for plans to create and maintain a safe and healthy working environment.
The bottom line is: If you feel uncomfortable or unsafe returning to work but are being asked to do, please let your steward, unit leadership and/or Local Representative know right away. If you’re being sent out into the field without the correct safety equipment, let us know. Your health is our main concern, and we will fight with you to make sure that it’s also the primary concern of our employers, too.
If you’re interested in joining the Local’s Health and Safety Committee and/or creating one for your bargaining unit, please email our Health and Safety co-chair, Stephanie Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And as always, if you have any questions or concerns you’d like to discuss, email me.
President, The NewsGuild of New York
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