SEBAC Statement 4.16.20

State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition Statement – 4.16.20

The Coalition continues to have strong concerns about both the protection of state workers performing essential services on the job and the implementation at an agency level of the Governor’s directives and statements that those workers who can work at home be allowed to do so, and “only the essential people go to work as needed.”  Since our last report, OPM/DAS guidances have moved substantially forward to reflect the Coalition’s call that the only workers who should be at the work site are those who perform work that is essential during the crisis and can only be performed from the work site rather than from their homes.   However, we continue to note than not all Commissioners and other branches of government/employers are properly implementing that principle.   And we have ongoing and critical safety concerns for those employees who perform critical functions and can only do so from the work site.  We should note that since our last report, we have seen some progress in our demands that workers who work at COVID-affected job sites be provided the option of staying in hotels so as not to risk infecting their families.   We have seen some progress in our demands to provide appropriate PPE to all working in COVID-affected sites.   And we have seen some progress in providing notice to unions in worksite when infections are diagnosed or suspected, as well as some improvement in contract tracing to reduce spread. But much much more needs to be done.  And in too many agencies, urgent threats to the health and safety of members and the public remain unaddressed, and avoidable infections continue to spread.

We have continue to press the administration to address our concerns immediately, because as we are all reminded daily, the virus’s spread gives us no time to waste, and the lives of state employees, and the public they serve, remain at risk.[1]

The Coalition calls upon the Administration to immediately implement the following requirements:

  • No worker should be at the workplace during the crisis unless the work is

o   Essential to be performed during the crisis; and

o   Essential to be performed at the workplace. Here the Administration now agrees with our principles, but commissioners, agencies, and employers must be pressed to actually practice what they speak.

  • Those workers who must be in the workplace must receive the greatest possible safety protections for themselves, their family, and the public. We have expressed the deepest concern that these workers have been denied the personal protective equipment they needs the training in how to respond to the various possible risks they might encounter and information they and their unions need about where and when infections have incurred in the workplace.
  • All other workers should be at home, their pay should be continued, and they should be performing whatever part of their work is possible and appropriate to be performed at home.   The administration has agreed with this demand.
  • Priority should be given to public services that
    • Protects the public from spread
    • Meets essential needs, and
    • Prevents harm that could be caused by service disruptions
  • The State should be a role model and use all means at its disposal to encourage other employers in the public sector, municipal and Board of education, and private sector to do right by their workforce and their communities.

[1] There are too many relevant documents from the State to be linked here. But see April 14 Guidance for the latest DAS/OPM Guidance to Agencies on COVID-19.   See Housing Guidance for the new state protocols allowing workers in some agencies with particular risks to state at hotels. As always, these documents are provided for convenience, and not to suggest agreement with any particular content.

SEBAC Statement 4.16.20 Draft