The SSA and three unions representing much of its workforce have agreed on a “reentry” plan for returning more employees to onsite work and making facilities more open to the public, although the effective dates may vary for reasons including the nature of the work.
For the largest group, some 45,000 represented by the AFGE union, the projected effective date is March 30, “although this date is subject to changes in pandemic conditions and further negotiations with agency components,” the union said.
A memo of understanding between the two calls for the agency to provide 30 days of notice to employees of a change in their working arrangements, with bargaining expected over topics including “plans to allow employees to continue teleworking regularly based on the particular attributes of their jobs” to be finished by March 1, it said.
It further specifies safety practices including that employees and non-employees will have to wear masks onsite regardless of vaccination status.
A similar agreement was reached with the Association of Administrative Law Judges regarding resuming in-person hearings, although due to the advance notice required to claimants, those likely will not resume until around early May. In the meantime, conferences will continue to be conducted by video.
Interest in operations at SSA has been particularly high since a general closing of offices to the public early in 2020 and only partial reopening since then. Members of Congress of both parties have cited delays and burdens on their constituents including in some cases the need to send original copies of important documents that otherwise could be presented in person.