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Telecommuting, COVID updates | As of the close of business on July 2, the emergency statewide telecommuting agreement will end and members are advised to contact their health and safety and labor/management representatives if they need further accommodations.

“Forty-two percent of PEF members never stopped working during the pandemic,” said PEF President Wayne Spence at an all-member Telephone Town Hall on June 3. “But more than half have benefitted from telecommuting. Telecommuting expires July 2 and there is no indication that the state will unilaterally extend the agreement. They are leaving it up to state agencies to meet their operating needs.”

Members should document their requests for telecommuting, but should not wait to make health and safety complaints until they return to work, he advised.

“Our best advice is members should be prepared to return to work on a full-time basis beginning July 3,” said Statewide Director of Field Services Katie Vorwald. “Talk to your supervisors and PEF representatives about any concerns. The sooner you start that process the better. PEF is advocating for telecommuting on as broad a scale as practicable across the state at the labor/management committee level. Let your chair know why you think telecommuting should continue and give examples of how it has helped your work”

Safety in the workplace
Despite a 0.44 percent positivity rate statewide and 59 days straight of hospitalization declines (as of June 3), PEF continues to advocate for strong workplace safety guidelines as members return to work.

“PEF is advocating for a permanent OSHA standard for airborne infectious diseases,” said PEF Health and Safety Specialist Shawn Bobb. “There are checklists for return to work available on the PEF website and PEF continues to push for all COVID precautions in the workplace — voluntary vaccinations, mandatory face masks, proper ventilation, low workplace density, hand washing and frequent cleaning and disinfection.”

Anyone with concerns about safety in their workplace can contact PEF’s Health and Safety Department at

Going forward
The danger is not over, Spence reminded attendees, with three PEF members passing away in May from COVID.

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” he said. “But, we are in a better place than one year ago.”

Spence thanked members for keeping New York running amid unprecedented times and pledged to continue pushing for hazard pay to reward their sacrifice throughout the pandemic.

“They have yet to even acknowledge the hard work PEF members have accomplished in the past year,” Spence said. “But, we know New York would not work without PEF. I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the work that you do.”