By MICHAEL GARTLAND
City government is falling far short of the state’s edict that 75 percent of non-essential workers telecommute, prompting fears from union officials that scores of city workers are being needlessly exposed to the coronavirus.
“City workers are not near 50% — not even close to that,” said Henry Garrido, head of DC 37, which represents nearly 150,000 city workers.
“We’re not even close to 25%,” he added. “There appears to be a lot of institutional resistance to people working from home.”
Gov. Cuomo announced Thursday that 75% of nonessential workers should stay home, upping the number from a 50% recommendation he made a day before.
But Garrido said that despite those recommendations, city agency leaders have dragged their feet to get with the program. Mayor de Blasio is well aware of the situation, he added.
“I speak with the mayor almost daily,” he said. “He’s saying they’re trying. They’re trying their best.”
De Blasio said Thursday evening that about 250,000 city workers will be permitted to work from home by next week.
One veteran city Department of Social Services worker who suffers from high blood pressure and diminished kidney function said it can’t come soon enough. He’s requested permission to work from home, citing advanced age and pre-existing conditions that put him at greater risk.
But his boss won’t allow it — despite Cuomo’s public pronouncements.
“It’s all talk and it’s all bulls—,” said the 67-year-old, who commutes from Brooklyn by bus. “Most of my colleagues are showing up because they are afraid if they don’t show up they won’t get paid. That’s the reality.”
City Comptroller Scott Stringer slammed Mayor de Blasio for waffling on the issue.
“Our city workers deserve clear guidance and support for telecommuting,” he said. “New Yorkers who are on the front lines — hospital, parks and benefits employees — must be given protective supplies to keep them safe and stop the spread.”
The highest hurdle to telecommuting is securing sensitive city data, said Garrido, who complained the problem has been foreseeable for years and evidenced in the city’s failure to adopt telecommuting rules he’s been pushing for more than a decade.
City Councilman Ben Kallos, who has worked as a software developer, said telecommuting and data security are “very easy to set up.”
“Every corporation in America does this. Doctors do this. It is very easy and normal to do,” he said. “I’m concerned about city workers who could be working from home and are being forced to come in.”
Garrido is also worried about workers getting unclear and unsafe guidance from the city about the proper coronavirus guidelines.
He cited as an example a city administrative bulletin that says workers who have “had close contact (less than 6 feet for more than a few minutes)” with someone who’s tested positive for coronavirus “can keep working.”
This article originally appeared in the NY Daily News on March 19, 2020.