Thousands of employees at the University of Maryland are pushing to keep a broad telework policy in place until September.
Members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1072 rallied outside of the university’s main administration building on Tuesday, and delivered a petition signed by 600 members.
The union is calling on the university to drop plans to revert to a “pre-COVID” telework policy starting Aug. 2. According to the union, supervisors at each division, under this policy, would have the authority to decide which workers could continue to work from home, and which would be required to work on site.
Todd Holden, president of Local 1072, said leaving decisions on who gets to telework up to supervisors leads to “unequal results.”
Holden explained, “A lot of supervisors and managers have bias when it comes to their opinions of telework in the first place.”
Of the 3,400 members represented by the union, Holden said about 2,000 would be directly affected by the telework policy.
According to Holden, the university “is refusing to discuss telework at all outside of contract negotiations.”
Hafsa Siddiqi, a spokeswoman for the university, said in a statement: “The University’s most recent collective bargaining agreements with AFSCME Local 1072 contain provisions that allow for telework,” and added that “many divisions have already expanded telework options.”
The university said that the most recent three-year term of its collective-bargaining agreement with AFSCME concluded June 21, and that an introductory session was held on Friday.
“The University looks forward to productive talks with AFSCME and reaching an agreement on matters of interest to both parties, including telework,” the school said in a statement.
But workers’ concerns — which center on things like finding childcare by Aug. 2 — don’t require collective bargaining, argued Holden, adding that such a process can take months.
“There’s absolutely nothing that prevents campus leadership from engaging in direct problem-solving with the union” over keeping a blanket telework option open to workers now, he said.
Not only is child care a challenge, Holden said, transportation is an issue for many workers who depend on Metro. Holden explained that Metro’s Green Line stations north of Fort Totten will be closed until Sept. 6 due to maintenance issues.
“Some people that have to come from D.C. and take the bus are facing a two-hour commute in either direction,” he said.
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