May 2020 proposal from Union to all employers

The proposal below was sent to all employers of SEIU Local 121RN members on May 11, 2020, asking these employers to agree to the following:

Introduction

Local 121RN and the Employer (or the “Parties”) agree that a public health crisis has created extraordinary circumstances affecting the operations of the Hospital and the working conditions of bargaining unit members covered by the following proposal. Given the nature of the COVID-19 pandemic and the still-evolving body of information about the virus, we need to maximize protections to reduce risk to patients and caregivers and to prevent injury, illness and even death of healthcare professionals and their patients. As such, the parties mutually agree that temporary modifications that go above and beyond what is stipulated in our Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) are necessary in order to ensure there is a healthy pool of healthcare workers to continue providing patient care and to help flatten the curve.  Having a healthy workforce, patients recuperating and preventing cross-contamination and additional infection of COVID-19 will contribute to the possibility of reopening our state sooner rather than later, and we believe our proposal would help in that regard. We are not proposing to open any closed CBA, but submitting what is contained in this proposal as a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), separate and apart from our existing CBA, much in the same way we have made proposals and reached MOUs/agreements through various committees such as Labor Management, Patient Care Committee and others.

Union Proposal to Address PPE, Health and Safety, COVID-19 Testing and other Priorities affecting RNs and other Healthcare Professionals, as well as Patients and our Communities

Adherence to State and Federal Safety Requirements. The Employer will provide and maintain safe working conditions for all employees in accordance with the California Occupational Safety and Health Act (Cal/OSHA) (Cal. Labor Code § 6300 et seq.) and implementing regulations (Cal. Code Regs., title 8) and will comply with all other applicable federal, state, and local laws, rules, and regulations.

A. Paid Time Off Related to COVID-19

  1. All employees shall be eligible to receive a one-time allotment of up to 120 hours of paid administrative leave prorated based on the employee’s FTE status (full-time, part-time, per diem). All hours will be paid at the employee’s regular rate of pay and all benefits and seniority will be preserved.
    • All hours must be used by December 31, 2020, or the allotment shall expire.
    • The hours may be used at any time including intermittently, either before or after the use of any accrued leave or other paid leave, at the request of the employee.
    • Exempt employees who do not accrue sick or vacation leave are eligible for the onetime allotment of the paid administration leave.
  1. The paid time off leave hours may be used for the following purposes:
    • When an employee is unable to work due to the employee’s own COVID-19 related illness or that of a family member;
    • The employee is self-isolating due to being part of a high-risk group (over 60 years of age, has chronic health conditions or has been identified as high risk/immunocompromised);
    • When the employee is unable to work because a COVID-19 related school or daycare closure requires the employee to be at home with a child or dependent;
    • When an employee has other caregiving responsibilities due to COVID-19 shutdowns (e.g., for older family members, members of their immediate household, or other dependents).
  1. The Employer will provide all employees who have been exposed to COVID-19 (such as, but not limited to, treating a patient who was not confirmed but later identified to be positive for COVID-19 or PUI) with verbal & written notice immediately after becoming aware of the exposure. In no event will such notice to employees be provided later than four (4) hours after the Employer’s knowledge of the exposure. This will include knowledge of a positive COVID-19 test result or diagnosis. The written notice will include the date of exposure and assessment of exposure risk.  The Employer will work with the employee to determine whether the employee should be placed on paid leave.  The Employer will notify the Union of such exposure no less than 12 hours after the exposure took place.
  2. Nothing in this agreement is intended to prevent employees from accessing other state benefits for which they may qualify, including but not limited to unemployment compensation insurance, paid family and medical leave, or workers compensation.
  3. Catastrophic Leave & Donation of Leave Time to affected members

Upon request of an employee and upon approval of a department director or designee, leave credits (e.g., PTO, vacation credit, holiday pay) shall be transferred from one or more employees to another employee impacted by the pandemic.

B. Testing

Both parties recognize that regular testing of employees, with quick communication of results, will be critical to turning the tide on this pandemic, improving public health, and minimizing transmission within the hospital.

The hospital will commit to prioritizing and expediting the testing of employees, and take all necessary measures, to ensure that no employee works while contagious.

If the hospital is acting as a point of collection for COVID-19 antigen and/or antibody tests, employees shall be prioritized for tests in such a way to minimize wait time or other delays. Employees will be tested, at no cost, upon their own request when they deem necessary (no referral or conditions required). Employees may request and be re-tested within 24 hours of a negative test.

If the employer is processing COVID-19 tests of any type at the hospital or within the company, healthcare worker tests shall be run in an expedited fashion (e.g., processed as soon as resources permit, before any outstanding batches or backlog) and results communicated immediately, but in no event later than eight (8) hours after testing.

If now or at any time the hospital is not acting as a point of collection, the employer shall maintain a list of nearby testing locations available to employees. The employer shall contact the parties managing those testing locations to request and discuss expediting healthcare worker testing and results.  Results will be provided to employee no later than twenty-four (24) hours after testing.

The employer will also provide antibody testing onsite or offsite at no charge to the affected employee upon request in addition to antigen testing. This includes any testing offsite that may provide a faster result to the affect employee(s). This may include reimbursement for costs to employee if free or pre-paid testing cannot be arranged.

C. PPE

The hospital will provide (at no cost to employees) the necessary protective clothing, equipment, safety devices and any other items required to protect all employees from hazardous conditions. The protective equipment provided shall be in accordance with appropriate Cal/OSHA standards and all other applicable standards/laws/directives. Employees shall not be required to recycle or reuse protective clothing, equipment or safety devices, unless the manufacturer of the clothing, equipment or safety device has recommended reuse and reuse is not barred by applicable federal or state laws or regulations or by industry standard, and not unless the hospital sanitizes said clothing, equipment or safety devices between uses in such a way as to eliminate the risk of injury or illness from reuse, and only in accordance with approved sanitizing standards, rules and regulations.

Employees who are expected to wear PPE for the duration or majority of their shift shall be given relief time at least every 2 hours to doff all PPE for at least 10 minutes.

Except as otherwise provided in this section, each employee subject to this agreement shall be provided with new, sanitary protective clothing, equipment, or safety devices that meet applicable state and federal requirements, at the start of each shift.  PPE shall also be made available during the shift in the event that such clothing, equipment or safety devices become soiled, damaged, destroyed, or otherwise unfit or unsafe for continued use, regardless of the cause. Employees shall not be subjected to discipline for requesting replacement protective clothing, equipment or devices with one another unless the hospital sanitizes the clothing, equipment or safety device in between uses so as to eliminate the risk of infection or injury.

D. Child/Dependent Care Assistance

In consideration of the extra burden faced by health care professionals due to a decrease in available care options for health care workers, specifically, employees with school-age dependent children, or dependent adults meeting the criteria for dependent status (per IRS criteria), who are required to work during the COVID-19 pandemic shall receive $100 per shift worked to help offset the costs of hiring licensed providers. This will remain in place until such time as school resumes or until the parties mutually agree to discontinue.

E. Lodging/Temporary Shelter

The Employer will provide a $75 a day subsidy to employees who wish to stay in a hotel or other lodging. This applies to all employees who work at least 20 hours per week (including per diems) effective immediately and through June 30, 2020, or until such time as the shelter-in-place order is lifted by the Governor of California, whichever occurs later.

F. Meals

Free meals will be provided to employees each day they are working, effective immediately and through June 30, 2020, or until such time as the shelter-in-place order is lifted by the Governor of California, whichever occurs later. If units/depts. are short-staffed and without break coverage or the ability for members to be able to take a full 30-minute meal offsite is hampered, the employer will ensure that meals are delivered to their units, including evening and night shifts.

G. Scrubs/Uniforms

The Employer will provide clean scrubs per shift and changing shower rooms/facilities onsite to all employees. The employer will also provide the employees the ability to shower prior to leaving the hospital after their shift has been completed.

H. Rest/Meal Relief

The Employer will ensure that all employees are properly relieved for the rest and meal periods each shift. We know that the Employer is aware of the legal requirement to do so but, during this time of crisis, it is even more important than ever before that employees be given the ability to receive proper relief from PPE equipment in order to eat, drink, utilize the restroom and rejuvenate.

I. Corrective Action

The Employer will take into consideration the impact of the current COVID-19 situation and will be judicious in its actions regarding discipline/corrective action. As such, employees performing work both within and outside of their current job description may not be subject to discipline, excluding gross misconduct or substantiated negligence. Management will exercise coaching as well as supporting employees through this challenging period. Additionally, for the duration of any waivers that may be in place or flexibility in relation to regulations, such as California’s Title 22 Regulations (e.g. nurse-to-patient ratios), there will be no discipline or reports against a professional’s license by the employer for situations that may be caused as a result of the waivers or flexibility in regulatory law.

J. Bonuses/Incentive pay

  1. A one-time bonus of $1200 for Full-time employees, $1000 for Part-time employees and $500 for Per Diem employees will be paid in the first pay period after June 15th to the employees who worked 80% of their scheduled shifts between February 15 and June 15, 2020. Absences due to being quarantined or ill from COVID-19 will not affect the bonus payment.
  2. Full-time, Part-time and Per Diem employees will receive an additional $10 per hour more for each shift they work. This will be discontinued on a date determined between the Employer and Union.

K. Right to Refuse Unsafe Work

  1. [In accordance with Cal. Labor Code §1102.5c] No employee shall be required to work under conditions that would be hazardous to the employee’s physical safety in violation of local, state or federal law. No employee shall be disciplined, discharged, bullied or retaliated against for raising concerns or discussing workplace safety and health concerns. In addition, employees will not be subject to discipline or retaliation for making a complaint to Cal/OSHA or for cooperating with a Cal/OSHA investigation or participating in an administrative hearing related to a Cal/OSHA investigation. An employee will not be subject to restraint, interference, coercion, discrimination or reprisal for reporting an unsafe or unhealthful working condition.  An employee who believes he or she has been subject to an act or acts of reprisal for reporting unsafe or unhealthful working conditions has the right to seek redress through established grievance procedures in established CBA as well as through any other applicable channels.
  2. In the event the employee believes he/she is at a high risk for harm or infection due to above stated diseases and related symptoms and comorbidities, the employee will not suffer any reduction in pay or benefits and the member will be allowed to remove themselves from the schedule and/or work out an agreeable arrangement with the hospital to work in a low risk capacity or telecommute.

L. Preservation of Work/Hours

The employer will inform the union within one (1) week of an anticipated reduction in hours or work. The employer and union will discuss options for shifting staff within the facility, in order to ensure the greatest possibility of members continuing to work their normal hours weekly – such as creation of a rapid deployment pool or staff nurse pool.
In no event will travelers or external/temporary staff be utilized to do any work that can be done or would normally be done by any bargaining unit member of SEIU 121RN while RNs in any unit are on such a reduced schedule.

M. Support for Emotional Trauma

In recognition of the toll the COVID-19 pandemic is taking on healthcare professionals and the trauma they are experiencing, the Employer agrees to provide 121RN members with the following at no cost to them.  This will be applicable during the pandemic and up to six (6) months after the state of emergency is declared officially over.

  1. Employer shall reimburse or arrange for provision of mental health services as necessary, in order to cover any costs or gaps in care due to limitations in the employees’ current health plan (e.g., an employee reaches the plan’s maximum number of psychiatric visits).
  2. Employer will provide reasonable accommodation to an employee for whom a job assignment or setting causes psychological distress due to experiences during the pandemic. Such accommodation may include transfer to another department or work area within the facility, or to another facility in the company.
  3. The employer will actively seek to promote and make available professional mental health services for employees to utilize, including and in addition to what is offered within the health insurance plan. This includes working with the health insurance provider or vendor to expedite referrals and appointments if necessary.

If we reach agreement through an MOU, we are proposing to have it be effective immediately and continue through the latter of June 30, 2020, or when the Governor of California declares the state of emergency related to COVID-19 has ended.

 

Sincerely,
Rosanna Mendez
Executive Director, SEIU Local 121RN

 

References:

California Association of Communicable Disease Controllers … (2019, April 7). https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/CDPH Document Library/CACDC_Outbreak_Notification_and_Communication_Guidance.pdf

 

 

 

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