Update on NJ Reopening and Telework

Greetings Sisters and Brothers,

We hope that you and your family are healthy and staying safe. We wanted to provide this message to update you on the steps CWA continues to take to keep members safe and to address concerns regarding return to offices and telework.

The last 16 months has brought so many unforeseen challenges. We are truly living in unprecedented times. On behalf of all New Jerseyans and the Union, we want to thank and recognize the amazing work performed by CWA members while in the office, in the field, and in remote locations during the worst of the pandemic. We maintained critical government services when the public needed it most.

As we have all come to learn, vaccinations are the best way to stop the spread of this highly communicable virus. CWA strongly encourages all members to get the vaccine. Vaccines are safe, effective, and the best way to protect our families and coworkers. The State has already mandated vaccinations in some worksites and that unvaccinated workers must get tested weekly in others. We anticipate the Administration will feel the need to take similar action throughout State Government. The impact of these policies must be negotiated with the Union before they takes effect. In the meantime, CWA remains committed to taking all necessary steps to protect the health and safety of all state workers.

When the pandemic struck, there was no federal plan in response to the emergence of a highly contagious life-threatening virus. With no time to prepare, Governor Murphy was forced to quickly convert the majority of state government services to remote work, partnering with CWA to help 80% of our members to transition to telework. To protect those workers whose jobs simply could not be done remotely, CWA staff and Shop Stewards inspected worksites and had daily – then weekly – discussions with Governor Murphy’s administration to do all we could to keep everyone as safe as possible. CWA has also provided 12 hours of health and safety training to hundreds of our CWA Shop Stewards, and will be training many more in the coming weeks. This training provides the necessary tools to ensure that management addresses and resolves worksite health and safety issues.

NJ has reopened, schools will be returning to in-person instruction and many state governments in the Northeastern United States are planning to return to work by September. Since Governor Murphy announced New Jersey State offices would fully resume onsite reporting on September 7th, our members should start to make the necessary arrangements in their home life to prepare for the return-to-office date of September 7th.

CWA has been advocating for remote working to continue beyond September 7th, where possible, and we have been in discussions with the State for the past several weeks. Members have contacted us to advocate for the ability to continue to telework and we hear you. CWA is focused on addressing members’ desire for remote work options while also building in protections that ensure this new way of working is equitable for all members, contractual protections are maintained, and members’ jobs are protected in the future.

Reaching an agreement on a completely new way of working is not easy, but we will continue to meet with the State and try to work through it TOGETHER. The current remote work arrangements, where they exist, were authorized under a State of Emergency without addressing many complications, rules, and thorough impact considerations. These are the many issues that all sides are now working through for a potential permanent policy. The State and CWA are committed to addressing the telework issue while also focused on the safe transition to offices during August and September.

We are concerned, as we know many of you are, with the rising trend of Delta variant cases. We know these concerns have an impact on returning to office on September 7th for many members. Throughout this pandemic, member safety has always been the number one priority. COVID-19 trends, science, and data are under constant review. We will continue to meet with the State in the coming days and weeks to ensure any workplace where our members have a presence is safe and protective. We will keep members informed as the situation continues to develop.

Again, we encourage all of members to get vaccinated. We will provide updates on the progress of all discussions with the State.

In solidarity,

Dennis Trainor, Vice President, CWA District 1
Franceline Ehret, New Jersey Area Director, CWA District 1
John Rose, President, CWA Local 1031
Migdalia Santiago, President, CWA Local 1032
Gaye Palmer, President, CWA Local 1033
Adam Liebtag, President, CWA Local 1036
Ken McNamara, President, CWA Local 1037
Shawn Ludwig, President, CWA Local 1038
Carolyn Wade, President, CWA Local 1040