BOLR Response: Union Coronavirus Letter
I am writing to alert you to a letter that Wayne MacManiman intends to send to all contractors regarding the coronavirus and some questions that have arisen to date. This letter can be found by CLICKING HERE and you will see comments that I sent to Wayne with respect to several of the positions the Union is staking out. Below are expanded/additional comments for internal consumption only. We would very much appreciate any thoughts you have or information about positions your company has taken with respect to any of these or related issues.
Wayne has been asked to hold off on sending out this letter until early next week as it is thought that further guidance on some of these issues will be forthcoming from the State Government.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Employees who are sick or showing symptoms of the virus - We are expecting that employees will be given time off for as long as they need to recuperate. Employees should be able to use sick/personal/vacation time off (where disability benefits do not apply) as needed. I know most employers have notice requirements to use vacation. We are asking that these requirements be suspended for the time being. We are also asking that the Employers not to discipline employees for absences related to the virus. [Comment: Under the attendance policy in the CBA, a continuous period of absence is counted only as a single occurrence; moreover, an absence due to a hospitalization, a work-related illness, or an absence covered by FMLA is not counted against the employee at all. Since it is likely that an absence due to COVID-19 illness would not be counted against the employee in any event, it is probably not worth making a big deal about this in most instances.]
Employees who are being required to self-quarantine who are not sick - It is understandable for Building Management/Employer to want to take precautionary steps in instances of potential exposure, request from the Health department or travel from Countries afar. If an employee is not showing any signs of illness, but has a family member who may have been exposed, and Building Management/Employer want the employee to self-quarantine, then it is the expectation of the Union that the employee will be paid their full wages and benefits during the time of required quarantine. [Comment: this is a tougher one; it is difficult to tell an asymptomatic employee to stay home without pay because they have been exposed and before they are tested. Perhaps, the employee can be processed as a laid off employee and required to apply for unemployment compensation, as well as being sent for testing, assuming it’s available. Continued quarantine would be dependent on the employee testing positive. If the employer is to pick up any wages for the missed work, it should be the difference between UC benefits and the employee’s regular wages. Of course, if the employee is denied benefits, this would be full regular pay. Further discussions with the Union regarding this will undoubtedly occur. We should reach consensus among ourselves on this, however, before any employer takes a position with the Union.] If Building Management or Employer chooses to close a work location, then the expectation will be that the workers are paid their full wage and benefits while the closure is effective. Someone not sick will not receive disability benefits (if applicable). [Comment: This should probably be treated as a lay off. The employees might qualify for UC benefits, and under the CBA, the employer likely can’t be required to bear the cost of lost wages in these circumstances. In all likelihood, the contractor won’t be paid by the owner for the time not worked.]
Extra disinfecting work - In this category, this has to be done correctly. There is no issue with doing the extra work. Communication to the Employees is key that these duties are precautionary. We have already seen a situation where employees came into work and heard rumors of someone being infected, and then were instructed to go and clean up the area and do the extra disinfecting work. As you probably can guess, that created a situation where the workers refused to do the work. We don’t want a situation where workers are disciplined and Employers can’t get the work done required by their clients. [Comment: These situations will have to be handled case-by-case, using prudence and good judgment and taking all reasonable precautions.]