The federal government should follow the directions of its own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and close all federal buildings with 50 or more employees, NTEU National President Tony Reardon said Monday. Many federal employees in these buildings are not telework eligible and work in very close proximity to one another.
The CDC announced Sunday that gatherings of 50 or more people should be canceled for the next eight weeks. In order to slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect federal employees and their families, Reardon argued the guidance should immediately be applied to federal workplaces.
"The half-measures taken so far are not enough because too many government workers are still working in full or nearly full offices," Reardon said. "Closing buildings halts the large gatherings, just as CDC recommends, allows telework to continue and provides weather and safety leave -- as opposed to personal leave -- for those who have jobs that are not eligible for telework."
Reardon acknowledged the policy would be unprecedented and would necessarily exempt federal workplaces where employees perform national security, highly classified or crucial public health work.
"This is a chance for the government to lead by strictly following the advice of its own public health officials," Reardon said. "State and local officials and private companies are all ramping down, and the federal government -- where possible -- should do the same."
This action is one of eight that NTEU believes the federal government should take immediately to further protect federal employees around the country. They include removing all barriers to telework; extending administrative leave to employees where school is closed or they have family members who are quarantined or self-isolating; halting all travel; and making coronavirus testing available to federal employees, free of charge, if their doctor recommends it.
The full checklist is attached and available here.
NTEU represents about 150,000 employees in 33 different agencies and departments.