A new policy requiring Austin employees to return to in-person work has been met with frustration from staffers and AFSCME Local 1624—the labor union that protects city employees.

Current situation

Starting June 5, executives are required to work at the office five days a week, according to a memo interim city manager Jesús Garza released May 11. Nonexecutive employees will be required to work in the office three days a week starting Oct. 1.

Department directors and some department managers can stipulate what the teleworking plan looks like for their department, according to the memo.


Garza changed the telework policy to increase efficiency, create consistency across city staffers and to increase public trust, he said in the memo.

“It is imperative, in my opinion, that we work to ensure the public’s trust. We cannot completely do so if we are not present or responsive to their needs,” Garza said. “With this in mind, we must address the various department policies surrounding telework. It is difficult to establish and maintain consistency and reliability without a uniform set of standards.”

The other side

The new telework policy was met with frustration from some city employees who demonstrated outside City Hall on May 16. Staff at AFSCME Local 1624 also voiced their concerns against the new policy.

“The new priority for employees is work-life balance,” said AFSCME Business Manager Carol Guthrie. “We know that productivity goes up for people that are teleworking, it saves the city money [and] it gets cars off the road.”

Guthrie added that the new policy will be especially inconvenient for employees who will need to arrange child care and those who live in bedroom communities, such as Buda and Kyle.

What’s next

While Garza is serving an interim role, officials said the telework policy is not meant to be short-lived.

“Policies within the city of Austin can be changed, but this policy has not been put into place as a temporary one," city officials said in an email to Community Impact. “The goal of this policy is to organize our staff and our work so that the city operates efficiently and provides high public service standards of excellence and reliability to the public.”

However, Guthrie said AFSCME is planning a meeting with the city manager to find a compromise.

“I hope we can have a conversation and really slow this down and support the community and city employees,” Guthrie said.