June 2020 Local Focus OP-ED

June 1, 2020

Dear union brothers and sisters:

Extended leave without pay, layoffs, pay reductions, and now the voluntary Work Share program, these are the new realities facing university employees. Since my last letter on March 21st, our union signed a Covid pandemic letter of agreement to include extended leaves, and 80 hours of paid emergency leave. By April 1st however, the timeline was no longer valid, and the LOA had to be amended, showing just how fluid everything at the university has been. The uncertainties have been traumatic and challenging for all staff members and their families. Some question if they are going to return to work after the extended leave or reduction in pay. 

The results of the pandemic we now face were once unimaginable, making them impossible to plan for. The union has been very involved in making sure that your contractual rights are upheld.  Articles in the contract guide us in implementing these programs, yet management has changed and adapted them to best suit their own needs. The programs are not all bad because each one allows the employee to remain a part of the university community.  Although no one knows what the future presents, you can be certain the union is standing alongside you in each and every part of the process.  Answering  questions, counseling colleagues, and looking out for the wellbeing of our members, has felt like a second job at times.

It would be dishonest to say that things will look brighter in the future, while university budgets are so uncertain. During this crisis, we must remember that we have a strong contract that doesn’t allow management to pick and choose who they lay off and who keeps working. I am happy to say that so far our seniority rights have been respected.We still have to see what the future presents. One cannot help but be suspicious and apprehensive about this new plan.

Presently the university is offering the voluntary work share program which reduces FTE by up to 40%. This means working hours can be reduced, with supervisor approval, by 20% (or one day off,) or 40% (equivalent to 2 days) off each week during the length of the summer program. The reduced hours will be paid to you by unemployment insurance. Additionally, the federal stimulus employment benefit makes employees eligible to receive an additional $600 per week through July 25th. On July 1st, we are also expecting a 2% cost of living increase.

Fall term is right around the corner. We are all praying for everyone to return to campus, and football games and other campus activities can resume. As we move forward, we ask ourselves what is next. Hold onto your seat. I can only believe the best is yet to come.

In good health and SOLIDARITY,

Johnny Earl
Chief Bargaining Delegate
SEIU- UO Local 085

 

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