EPA union announces agreements with agency expanding work from home

A union representing 7,500 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) employees said that it has reached new agreements with the agency on working from home, closing out what they described as a major point in ongoing negotiations. 

Union members with AFGE Council 238 told The Hill on Wednesday night that employees could request to telework up to eight days in a 10-day pay period, while before they could ask for two days of telework per week, essentially doubling how much time they could potentially work from home. 

The new agreements also allow employees to work remotely on a more permanent basis if it’s applicable to their job circumstances. And, it’s expected to give them more flexible hours. 

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“The remote work, the telework and the work schedules are going to allow the agency to retain very high-talent individuals,” said union official Nicole Cantello. 

“People are going to flock to your agency. They're gonna help you accomplish the mission of protecting human health and the environment. And that's really important for the future of this agency because we have to conquer the climate crisis,” Cantello said. 

In April, the union announced an interim agreement with the agency to nix a Trump-era contract, but it kept Trump-era rules on telework in place. Now, the tentative telework agreement would replace the 2020 Trump-era agreement. 

Members will have to vote on whether to approve the agreements next week before they can take effect. 

It comes amid years-long negotiations between the agency and the union that have sometimes been contentious.

In one particularly tense flashpoint in 2019, the agency said it would implement a contract that the union didn’t agree to. In response, the union filed an unfair labor practices charge against the agency.