At the end of 2020, with many of our clerical members at PG&E working from home, the company came to IBEW 1245 interested in developing a Letter of Agreement around remote work for our members in CCO/Contact Center Operations. A few months later, PG&E came to 1245 to discuss a systemwide remote work agreement.
Prior discussions led to two letter agreements, 20-13 and 21-01 – however, these agreements were specific to the presumed temporary nature of COVID-19 and purposely basic. We knew we would need a lot more detail if we were going to make remote work ongoing in a post-COVID 19 world. We also knew that the company could at any time choose to return the entire workforce to in-person work 100% of the time if we didn’t put a long-term agreement in place. The majority of our members who have been working remotely made it clear that they wish to continue doing so, and so we stepped up to the task of negotiating terms that would protect our members and provide them with options for long-term remote work.
Initially, PG&E Labor Relations Specialist Carlos Cortes consistently met with me and 1245 staffers Mike Adayan and Dave Sankey in an effort to develop contractual “rules of the road” for any of our members who might work remotely in the future. We had various items to negotiate, but what made it difficult is that we had no template to try to predict what issues would crop up with remote work. In short, we didn’t know what we didn’t know.
While all letter agreements take some time, this process was particularly lengthy, as input from supervisors, managers and our membership poured in. Adayan put it best when he said, “This one had more twists and turns than an itchy snake.”
The topics addressed in the original LA 22-22 (and its sister agreement 22-23 for CCO) included: Office equipment and ergonomics, temporary return to the office HQ due to Company or member need, long term return to the office due to Company or member need, overtime and overtime meals, travel, reimbursement for expenses, and employee engagement (cameras). Both parties realized that there may be issues that could come up that were not addressed by the Letter; for that we agreed to include an oversight committee to initially address unforeseen circumstances.
Throughout these discussions, IBEW 1245 had the impression that the majority of departments at PG&E would have their clerical employees work remotely at least two days per week. We were just as surprised as our members were when, in July, PG&E told employees that all Operating Clerical and T300 Clerical support would be returning to on-site offices 100% of the time.
There was a large outpouring of displeasure with that announcement, and the subsequent explanations from supervisors to their clerical employees only seemed to exacerbate the frustration amongst the membership. Local 1245 Business Manager Bob Dean decided that we needed a way to communicate directly with our clerical members. We invited more than 2,300 members to a Townhall style call on July 19, where we fielded nearly 100 questions over the course of two hours!
After the displeasure shown by our members, we sat back down with PG&E leadership as they considered how to address different desires for on-site or remote work from the various lines of business, and how they could meet the expressed desire for remote work options from their employees. Ultimately, IBEW 1245 and PG&E agreed to amend the original Letter Agreement 22-22 to allow for up to four days per week on-site to fall under the “hybrid” designation. Line of business leaders figured out a way to allow many more employees at least one remote day per week. This solution, included in LA R2-22-22, seems to have struck a balance between what our members want, and what the various lines of business at PG&E felt they needed for on-site support.
We appreciate each and every member who reached out to express their opinions and suggestions during this process. As we move forward, we are hopeful that this hybrid work experience works well for both our members and for PG&E.
–Bryan Carroll, IBEW 1245 Senior Assistant Business Manager