Now that Return to Office has occurred, the union is receiving questions from employees who are assigned to the SEC’s Headquarters in DC regarding office assignments. Some of you are SP3 employees who will be losing your SP3 office space soon. Others are newer employees who have no office assignment yet. Still others are employees with more seniority who want the option to move to a better office than they currently occupy. This update is intended to provide you the best information currently available to the union on HQ office assignments.
We want you to know that the union has been working this issue on your behalf for many months. Due to a combination of factors, the HQ office assignment situation is complicated. First, the SEC has decided that it will not be continuing its SP3 lease when it expires on September 30, 2023, which means that hundreds of SP3 employees will have to be moved into SP1 and SP2 (the SEC is requiring them to vacate their offices by May 31 to afford sufficient time to prep SP3 for handover to the lessor). Second, during the past three years of 100% telework availability during the pandemic, the SEC hired a large number of new employees who must now be placed in offices in SP1 and SP2 (welcome to the SEC, we are glad to have you on board!). Third, under Article 40 of our new contract, how often an employee is scheduled to be in the office now must be considered in the office assignment process after negotiations with the union, with employees who come in five or more days per pay period selecting office space before everyone else. Finally, due to Chair Gensler’s decision not to take a collaborative approach to the CBA negotiations, opting instead to fight with the union and drag out the process through FSIP, the SEC’s final telework policies were left up in the air until just recently.
Despite all these complications, the union has been submitting proposals to the SEC regarding office assignments in HQ since last fall, anticipating the current problems. The basic parameters of the union’s proposals are straightforward. HQ would be “restacked” on a rolling basis, office by office and division by division, commencing immediately to get the job done as quickly as possible. Employees would be permitted to select existing offices in each office and division on the basis of their seniority, with employees who will be teleworking frequently sharing office space with other frequent teleworkers (meaning that they should not have to work in the office together at the same time). “Hoteling,” the practice of requiring employees to sign up for an available “hotel” office space each time they come into HQ, would not be required unless there is insufficient space for everyone to be assigned an office space (and, at present, there appears to be more than sufficient space in SP1 and SP2 to assign everyone a permanent space when office sharing is included in the equation). To facilitate the logistics of all the moves, SP3 employees who have been ordered by the SEC to vacate their offices by May 31, as well as any other SEC employees who have not yet been assigned an office, would be permitted to continue to telework on a voluntary basis, as they have already been doing during the three years of the pandemic, until their office or division is “restacked” and they are assigned a permanent office.
The disagreement between the union and the SEC right now is that Chair Gensler insists that all of the hundreds of SP3 employees and other unassigned employees must come in the office prior to the restacks, with no exceptions. As a consequence of this directive from Chair Gensler, under the SEC’s proposals, many of these hundreds of SP3 and unassigned employees would be required to move into “temporary” offices in SP1 and SP2. This will require the Office of Support Services (“OSO”) to configure these “temporary” offices spaces all over SP1 and SP2 for IT support, and move these employees into them, which will take a lot of time, causing an unnecessary drag on the overall “restack” process. In addition, under the SEC’s proposals, many others of these hundreds of SP3 and unassigned employees would be required to “hotel” every time they come in the office for the next several months. The amount of OSO time spent dealing with locating these temporarily “hoteled” employees every pay period in various offices and divisions in SP1 and SP2, as well as the time required by OSO to setup the “hotel” office spaces so that they can be utilized in this fashion, will cause a further unnecessary drag on the overall “restack” process.
The requirement that so many HQ employees be moved and setup in offices more than once in a matter of months during 2023 obviously will create logistical problems and result in an unnecessary expenditure of agency funds and time. The union also believes that the SEC’s proposals to utilize “temporary” offices and “hotel” spaces for hundreds of HQ employees, for many months, will result in an obvious decrease in the productivity of these employees on in-office days until they receive their permanent office assignments. The union has repeatedly asked the SEC’s negotiators to identify the SEC’s interests in proceeding in this fashion—and we have been told repeatedly only that Chair Gensler insists upon making all employees come into the office, even if the result is a far less efficient and time-consuming HQ “restack” process.
We will continue to provide updates as this situation develops.