Currently, most ESC members at PG&E are working remotely under a temporary remote work agreement – an agreement reached due to the state and local health orders compelling management to have workers who can do their work remotely to work from home. Those orders have been altered to permit employers to require employees to return to the office. PG&E plans to start returning employees to the office in August. Without a remote work agreement, ESC members paid hourly will be required to work in an office. In fact, management has stated recently:
“If we do not have an agreement, the Company will need to discuss and prepare for an environment that complies with the current ESC Agreement and does not provide for remote work.”
Members who are monthly paid can telecommute in the contract – but those agreements are solely at management’s discretion and individual-by-individual.
Your committee has been bargaining hard for a remote work agreement that preserves the provisions of the contract for both those that work remote and and those onsite. However, post-health orders, PG&E is not compelled to reach a remote work agreement with the union and can return workers to the office. As the union has been reporting, the negotiations aren’t about particular departments’ amount of days in the office, but rather the working conditions if remote work is offered, similar to the alternative work schedule agreements. In these negotiations, management has been vehement in seeking to end Title 16.6* reimbursement and time taken provisions for those who work remotely and alter Title 7.6 Temporary Headquarters to deduct one’s normal commute (for those working remotely) from travel time to another temporary HQ.
To be clear, working remotely, if offered, is voluntary and those who choose or are assigned to work onsite will not experience any contractual changes.
Recently a compromise agreement was reached regarding 16.6:
“When an overtime meal break has been earned, the employee may continue working or take a meal break. Consistent with Section 514 of the California Labor Code, if the employee chooses to continue to work through an earned overtime meal, the Company will pay an allowance equal to thirty (30) minutes at the straight time rate of pay for the missed meal. If the employee elects to take a meal break, the time taken for the meal break will be unpaid.”
“Under no circumstances will an employee be entitled to reimbursement for the cost of overtime meals consumed when working remotely.”
“The unpaid meal breaks” “shall not constitute a break in time with regard to establishing the appropriate rate of pay for overtime assignments in accordance with Section 17.3 of the ESC Labor Agreement. Consistent with current calculation of intervals, unpaid meal breaks will not be included in the calculation of time intervals for future meal breaks.”
In short, no in-lieu payments, and ½ straight pay instead of 1-1/2 pay for missed meal.
Even though management agreed to a compromise on meals, their stance on travel time remained unchanged, despite impassioned arguments from the union. Management continued to maintain that any agreement must require those working remotely to deduct their normal commute to go to another location, including the field. This would have been onerous for members with long commutes whose work routinely requires them to report in the field (at a dam, compressor stations, land surveys, city agencies, walk downs, wells, job sites, assembly points). However, at the last negotiation, management relented and agreed that those working remotely would only be required to deduct their commute when assigned to another HQ, and not the field. It may be possible that some field visits may have a HQ at them, but the committee believes this change will mitigate most of the negative impact that this provision will have on members with a long commute assigned to the field.
Because of this change and other benefits negotiated, such as equitable remote work offerings in a work group, your remote work committee can now recommend the agreement to the ESC PG&E Unit Executive Board. The Board has directed the union to survey the members prior to an agreement. Please complete this brief survey to provide the Board with your thoughts on the new remote work agreement by the end of the day on Wednesday, June 8th.
John Mader, ESC Union President & PG&E Unit President
Frankie Preciado, ESC Executive Director
Carl Harland, ESC Assistant Executive Director
*It is important for members to understand that the ESC contract contains working conditions for hourly paid and monthly paid members. Monthly paid conditions are also called exempt or salaried. Exempt is short for exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act (and also the state equivalent). The FLSA is the law that requires overtime pay, double time after twelve hours of work and other provisions. That is why the contract has provisions like 16.6 meals, 17.3 rate and double time for hourly employees.
Monthly paid members have schedule flexibility, no charge for vacation or sick less than four hours, STIP and other provisions. There are no protections requiring additional pay for additional work in the law for exempt employees – provisions for travel pay and additional time worked are contractual rights. The ESC contract has many provisions for working conditions in excess of those required by law for both monthly and hourly paid members – rights that have been hard won.