A labor union that represents Boston municipal employees has filed a complaint with a state agency claiming the city did not seek its input in its return-to-work plan and failed to bargain in good faith regarding its COVID-19 reopening.
SEIU Local 888, which represents more than 8,000 state, municipal, and education workers in Massachusetts, made the claim with the state’s Division of Labor Relations last week. The legal action was first reported by The Boston Herald.
The union’s move comes after Acting Mayor Kim Janey’s administration recently took heat from some city workers who viewed the city’s reopening plan as inflexible for those in need of child care.
In a statement addressing the union’s complaint, a spokeswoman for Janey said “Mayor Janey remains committed to flexibility, as we fully restore vital services to Boston residents. We do not have further comment at this time on the pending litigation.”
In its complaint, the union said Janey earlier this month issued orders for its workers to physically return to work locations vacated because of the COVID-19 public health emergency. Some workers would return on June 22 and the rest would return on July 6.
The day after Janey issued those orders, the union demanded to bargain over “the widespread impacts of Mayor Janey’s unilateral decision.”
According to Local 888′s complaint, Janey, through her director of labor relations, maintained that “there are no changes in terms of conditions of employment and therefore no impacts.”
City authorities did meet last week with union officials, but there was no explanation as to why the return to work was needed on the selected dates, according to the complaint. The union said the city asserted it has no duty to bargain “over the impacts of Mayor Janey’s decision to order all employees to physically return to City buildings.”
“The City refused to bargain in good faith about health and safety issues, family and childcare issues (especially single and low wage employees), and productivity issues (as the evidence will show that many of the job tasks have been accomplished at a higher rate due to the use of virtual meetings and technology),” wrote the union in its claim.
Janey became acting mayor in March, after Martin J. Walsh left City Hall to become US labor secretary. Janey is among a half-dozen candidates running in this year’s mayoral race.