Silicon Valley Transportation Agency Brings Remote Workers Back to Office

VTA brings its teleworkers back to the office, and some say it puts them at risk.

“We’re not against coming back to the office, we just want to do it in a safe and logical manner,” said Tammy Dhanota, public communications specialist and VTA president of SEIU Local 521. The union includes the administrative employees of VTA. .

Workers at VTA’s administrative offices, including the River Oaks headquarters on North First Street, will resume a hybrid schedule starting Tuesday.

“Hybrid and staggered schedules are yet another way of trying to support our employees without requiring them to be fully in the office five days a week,” VTA said in a statement to the San José Spotlight. “While we believe those who work from home have remained productive, there is still a lot to be said about the benefits of in-person collaboration and supporting the 75% of our VTA workforce who couldn’t do their work from home. .

VTA said about 300 employees worked from home during the pandemic. About 52% of its total workforce is vaccinated, although it is not known what percentage of office workers are vaccinated, according to VTA.

Dhanota said employees in the transport agency’s finance department returned to the office a few weeks ago. She said employees in the department had to return to the office to correct timesheets, many of which were inaccurate following a cyberattack on the agency in April.

A worker has already tested positive for COVID-19 at the River Oaks office, according to an email sent to employees on Monday.

VTA sent an email to its employees on Monday saying an employee tested positive for COVID-19 after returning to the office.

Dhanota said workers fear that bringing people back to the office too early could lead to larger outbreaks.

“Just because you’re vaccinated doesn’t mean you can’t get COVID,” Dhanota said. “It’s really caused a lot of panic in a lot of people in the last 24 to 48 hours.”

Employees want to retain the right to work remotely, according to Stanley Young, a representative of Local 21 of IFPTE, the union of engineers, architects and cost and schedule coordinators of VTA.

“We’re going to negotiate this policy with certain classifications,” Young said. “It’s flexibility and freedom of choice for our people. “

Young said VTA’s managers and board members work well with the union and there should be a way for the transportation agency to allow its employees to continue working remotely.

“If there is a way to do it safely, like every other tech company is doing right now… then the transport agency should find a way to do it as well,” Young said. “We hope they will be flexible on this.”

VTA said it does not have VPN services in place for employees to work securely from home. But Dhanota said it wasn’t true.

“The VPN technology was delivered months ago to our offices in River Oaks,” she said.

VTA disputed this assertion.

The network may not be robust enough to handle remote telecommuting, but the decision to bring employees back to the office flies in the face of the region’s sustainability goals, said Eugene Bradley, founder of Silicon Valley Transit. Users.

“It really goes against the climate emergency that they have declared,” Bradley said, referring to the declaration of climate emergency filed by the agency on February 6, 2020. “The best way for these workers to return to work safely is to ensure that there is an appropriate bus and light rail service for them to do so.

Bradley said the decision to bring workers back to the office is a slap in the face of Silicon Valley Youth Climate Action which pushed for the resolution last year.

“At least with Google, when they encourage office work, they bring back their bus service,” he said.

Turnout4Transit founder Monica Mallon, who helped push through the resolution with Silicon Valley Youth Climate Action, said she sees both sides of the issue. She said there are benefits to working from home, as well as working with her peers, and not all VTA employees have the ability to choose.

“VTA operators and frontline workers have been working and interacting with the public and their colleagues throughout this time,” Mallon said. “They put themselves in great danger throughout the pandemic, and now the people of River Oaks who have been working from home for a year and a half are complaining about going back to work. “

Contact Sonya Herrera at [email protected] or follow @SMHsoftware on Twitter.

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