Nov. 3, 2021: Since the filing of the Improper Practice Charge against the City for failure to bargain implementation of its latest vaccine mandate there have been bargaining sessions with a number of groups. These sessions have also have produced discussion with the City focusing on the unfairness of the short timeframe to deal with the hastily-issued mandate. The most recent discussions benefited from the involvement of Marty Scheinman. With Marty’s assistance, we have arrived at the following:
Given the uncertainty swirling around effective dates, the City will allow those who filed medical or religious exemption/accommodation requests through 11:59 p.m. on November 2nd to be included within the group that will remain on payroll through either the City agency or independent Scheinman appeal process (previous cutoff was Oct. 27th and, as set out below, only allowed for continuation of pay if the employee chose the City agency appeal path);
Employees will be able to file new exemption/accommodation requests today through 11:59 p.m. on Friday, November 5th; those who file during this period will remain on payroll through the agency determination of the request, not through the appeal process (this opportunity was foreclosed by the prior Order). If an appeal is granted, the employee will be paid retroactive to the date of the agency determination.
For appeals of agency denials of exemption/accommodation requests, there will be two separate processes, the City “statutory” one and the independent Scheinman group, but now both will be treated the same; that is, for employees who filed for exemption/accommodation by November 2, workers will remain on payroll through determination of appeal under either path (previously, the City was not allowing employees to remain on payroll if they chose the independent Scheinman path); and
For those workers who were placed on leave without pay as of November 1, but get their first vaccine by 11:59 p.m. this Friday, November 5, Scheinman will have jurisdiction to meet and discuss with the City and Unions how their period of unpaid status should be addressed.
For those Unions interested in going forward on this basis, these provisions will be folded into a Memorandum of Agreement, one for Civilian Unions and one for Uniformed Unions (the difference being the separation incentive since Uniformed workers have unlimited sick leave), that OLR will provide this afternoon. As contemplated, the process is modeled on the initial Scheinman Arbitration Award for the DOE unions (including leave of absence and separation incentives with continued healthcare through June 30, 2022), with the modifications highlighted above, and other changes regarding a potentially broader view of exceptions under the City appeal path and a waiver of certain aspects of further appeal from the Scheinman appeal path. We will have recommendations from the lawyers on the full MOA once received. Given the new opportunities for members this week, you are urged to consider all this promptly and get the word out as appropriate.
COVID-19 Testing Sites EXCLUSIVELY for NYC Employees
New York City employees now have access to exclusive testing sites in each of the five boroughs. Appointments are required and can be scheduled by clicking on any of the links in this PDF where locations are listed. Walk-ins are not being accepted.
MANAGING THE RETURN TO THE OFFICE IN THE AGE OF COVID-19
Although phase 2 of NY Forward permits offices to re-open, the best way to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and protect employees is to continue telework policies as much as possible. The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene states that there continues to be community transmission of COVID-19 in New York City (NYC), and a return to the office may result in an increase in cases. The four key actions to prevent COVID-19 transmission:
Stay home if sick: stay home if you are sick unless you are leaving for essential medical care (including testing) or other essential errands.
Physical distancing: stay at least 6 feet away from other people.
Wear a face covering: protect those around you. You can be contagious without symptoms and spread the disease when you cough, sneeze, or even talk. A face covering may help reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Practice healthy hand hygiene: wash your hands often with soap and water or use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available; clean frequently touched surfaces regularly; cover your cough or sneeze with your sleeve, not your hands.
New York, with the most number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, has become the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States, and where mental health issues are going to be particularly acute. In fact, some are comparing the coronavirus-driven anxiety to the one that affected New Yorkers in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. If you are having trouble coping during this coronavirus pandemic, please get help. New York City has set up a hotline for people experiencing stress, anxiety, or depression as a result of coronavirus.
Go to nycwell.cityofnewyork.us where you will be able to text, call or chat online with a mental health specialist. You can also seek assistance by visiting HCAMS at unionsupport.org (or by calling 888.828.7826). This is a difficult and scary time we are all living through. If you need assistance and need to speak to someone, please do not be ashamed to reach out for help.
FREE At-Home COVID-19 Tests UPDATE
Residential households in the U.S. now are eligible for two orders of four, free at-home rapid tests at USPS. There is a limit of two orders per residential address. If you previously placed an order, you can go back and now place a second order. Each order includes four individual rapid antigen COVID-19 tests. The orders will ship free as tests are received from manufacturers.
Health Benefit Coverage Extended for COVID-19 Deaths
The City of New York has agreed that City health benefit coverage will be provided for 45 days to the families of a municipal worker who passes away due to the COVID-19 virus and who was receiving City health benefits. This benefit extension comes after labor unions, in working under the auspices of the Municipal Labor Committee, sought the financial assistance for families of members who die from COVID-related deaths. “Many of our members have made the ultimate sacrifice during this pandemic,” said President Gloria Middleton. “This will at least offer some transitional relief during a very difficult time.” The MLC is continuing discussions with the City, State and Federal governments so that additional assistance can be provided to the families of public employees who lost their lives serving the citizens of our City.