We have an MOU!
Today, after nearly a month of negotiations with Sparrow Hospital on the effects of COVID-19, we signed an MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) that provides the most expansive guaranteed protections for medically vulnerable Caregivers in the state of Michigan. We have set the standard for Caregiver safety that other health systems will now look to. This MOU also expands access to emergency PTO, setting a new standard that Sparrow has now generously extended to the entire health system.
We have other items still on the table for negotiation related to the effects of COVID-19, and we will continue to meet with HR to come to a resolution on these items.
Effective immediately Caregivers shall not be required to provide direct patient care or screening of patients diagnosed or suspected of having COVID-19 if they meet one of the following conditions:
Effective backdated to March 19, 80 hours of emergency PTO is now available on an FTE pro-rated basis to all Caregivers who are screened out, sent home, or quarantined for COVID-19 related reasons by Employee Health. If you are unable to work due to a COVID-19 diagnosis, presumptive diagnosis, or employer mandated quarantine for more than 80 hours, contact HR to apply for workers’ compensation to cover additional lost time.
Under Governor Whitmer’s Executive Order 36 signed today, Sparrow Caregivers who are instructed by Employee Health to stay home to care for or quarantine with a family member with a COVID-19 diagnosis will also be covered by EPTO. You must receive instruction from Employee Health to stay home in order to be eligible for EPTO when caring for a family member.
As the likelihood of a surge of COVID-19 patients at Sparrow Hospital becomes more and more imminent, your elected PECSH-MNA bargaining team continues to meet with management to reach a negotiated agreement that will better protect PECSH Caregivers from the effects of this pandemic.
We have made significant progress toward language that protects medically vulnerable Caregivers, and we anticipate seeing improvements in access to emergency PTO in the near future. Our top priority in these negotiations is protecting the safety of frontline Caregivers.
Specifically, we believe that it is essential to protect Caregivers who are over sixty-five (65) years of age, have a confirmed pregnancy by a physician of twelve (12) weeks or more, are breastfeeding, are immunocompromised, have a confirmed respiratory illness, or have a confirmed cardiovascular illness. At our urging, we have already seen Sparrow implement some of these protections. We are optimistic that we will see this more expansive list of protected populations in our final agreement.
As part of our negotiations, we have explained the importance of extending emergency PTO to Caregivers who are screened out for symptoms and unable to work, but do not have a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. Sparrow management agrees that this is reasonable, and we expect to see this expanded access in place soon.
In addition to working to expand access to emergency PTO, we have introduced language to better manage the issues of Administrative Absences and the potential layoffs so many Caregivers are currently facing. We understand that COVID-19 is presenting many of our members with enormous financial hardships, and we are working with HR on a daily basis outside of these negotiations to minimize the impact of changed hospital operations as much as possible.
In discussions to date, Sparrow has not expressed a willingness to expand eligibility for emergency PTO to caregivers who are unable to work due to family care obligations or due to low census. At this point, we don’t anticipate this is likely to change, but we want to make sure you are aware that there is financial assistance available from the state unemployment insurance agency, even if you are still actively employed at Sparrow.
If you are displaced or have had your hours significantly reduced you may be eligible to collect underemployment benefits from the State of Michigan. In this situation, you will remain an active employee of Sparrow Hospital, and will continue to receive your regular employer-provided health insurance benefits. If the hours you work aren't enough to cover the cost of your benefits, you will receive a bill for the balance. Maintaining access to employer provided benefits is a high priority for PECSH at all times, and particularly so during a pandemic. We are working with HR to do everything possible to avoid layoffs for this reason.
Apply for benefits here.
We will keep you updated as we learn more.
Note: This post has been updated as of 3/26 to included more specific guidance for salaried Caregivers and Caregivers who work in closed units. We continue to meet with HR regularly on the issues that have arisen from staffing restructuring related to COVID-19, and we will continue to update you as we reach resolutions. If you have questions that are not addressed in this blog post, please don't hesitate to reach out to your PECSH area rep for guidance. You can find your rep here.
This week, staffing has been one of the biggest issues that your grievance reps, officers, and negotiating team members have been working on related to COVID-19. With the hospital at low census and numerous departments being reduced or temporarily closed, we will continue to struggle with staffing challenges until census changes. We want to use this update to give you an overview of the staffing processes currently in place, and to remind you of the protections your PECSH contract provides in this area, as well as some new provisions of state law that are relevant for those experiencing reduced work hours. Our next effects bargaining session on these issues is scheduled for tomorrow, March 25, and we will update you again after that session.
Staffing Process, Additional Hours:
Due to overwhelming requests, the staffing office has asked that the process for requesting hours outside of your home department be streamlined. If you are displaced or experiencing reduced work hours, reach out to your manager and ask them to add you to the list of staff requesting hours being created for the staffing office. Please follow up with your manager (rather than the staffing office) to confirm that your name has been submitted.
Reduced Work and Staffing Adjustments:
Numerous Caregivers have contacted PECSH to raise concerns about reduced hours and the strain that repeated Administrative Absences are putting on their PTO (or lack of PTO.) At the moment, census truly is low, given that COVID-19 cases in Ingham County remain low even compared to other areas in the state. Based on what we have seen elsewhere, we have every reason to believe the hospital will get a lot busier in the coming weeks as COVID-19 continues to spread, and staffing needs will increase accordingly.
In the meantime, we are working closely with HR to follow all provisions agreed to in Article 12 “Seniority, Layoff, Recall, and Hours Reduction,” Article 14 “Administrative Absences,” and all other areas of our negotiated agreement. Our priority is keeping everyone employed at as close to their regular FTE as possible under the circumstances, and to do everything we can to avoid layoffs. This means that we are prioritizing reassigning displaced members first by finding opportunities for them in screening, the new COVID-19 hotline, and other areas. For those Caregivers whose departments are still operational but under reduced hours, we continue to work with HR to find the best fit for each Caregiver in the areas of highest need.
Reduced Work and Pay, Appendix A Caregivers:
At this time, reductions in work hours due to COVID-19 continue to be recorded as Administrative Absences for Caregivers in units identified in Appendix A to Article 62, “Staffing.” As a reminder, Caregivers are not subject to discipline or corrective action for AAs, but at this time all AAs remain unpaid unless the Caregiver elects to use accrued PTO for this time.
Reduced Work and Pay, Closed Unit Caregivers:
Reductions in work hours for Caregivers in closed units are also recorded as unpaid Administrative Absences. Caregivers in these units should refer to Article 56, Closed Units, to understand the procedures for rotating Administrative Absences specific to closed units. Caregivers in closed units will follow the staffing guidelines established by their unit committee for accommodating reduced work. Off-unit staffing opportunities for Caregivers from closed units whose hours are reduced will follow Section 56.3, “When a mandatory administrative absence is given, the employee may call the Nursing Office and request to be floated to another department/unit. If an assignment is available for which the employee is qualified, the employee may float to that department/unit.”
Reduced Work and Pay, Salaried Caregivers:
Again, reductions in work for Salaried Caregivers are being recorded as Administrative Absences, although these absences follow different contractual standards for compensation. Salaried Caregivers who are displaced or whose hours are reduced should refer to Article 37.9 “Vacation-Salaried Employees” to understand the contractual provisions currently being applied to salaried Caregivers, specifically the provision that “unpaid periods of absences are permissible only after vacation hours have been exhausted” except under certain limited conditions. These provisions were agreed to in the context of the full negotiated agreement, under which absences for salaried employees are taken on a voluntary basis. The passage of Executive Order 2020-21 (COVID-19) “Temporary Requirement to Suspend Activities that are Not Necessary to Sustain or Protect Life” has created an unprecedented staffing situation that has impacted numerous salaried Caregivers. We continue to work with HR to develop a better process for implementing these staffing changes that will not unduly impact the accrued PTO of salaried Caregivers.
We are still working with management to find a better solution to pay all Caregivers whose hours have been reduced or who are otherwise unable to work as a result of changes related to COVID-19. In the meantime, anyone experiencing these changes in compensation should immediately begin the process of applying for the recently expanded state unemployment and underemployment plans. An explanation of the simplified application process is here.
Quarantined Employees and Pay:
We continue to press management for an agreement to pay employees who have been screened out and are unable to work, but have not yet received a positive COVID-19 test result. In the meantime, if you are missing pay due to being screened out and unable to work, we encourage you to follow regular procedures to begin the workers compensation process as outlined by Article 58 “On-The-Job Injury or Illness” to obtain a referral to Employee Health Services from your supervisor. A recent emergency rule ensures that COVID-19 exposure is a compensable personal injury for healthcare workers in the State of Michigan. If you receive a COVID-19 diagnosis or are required to quarantine at Sparrow’s direction and file while this rule is in effect, your injury will be covered. Short term disability may also be relevant for some Caregivers in this situation. Finally, we encourage Caregivers who find themselves restricted from work but without a COVID-19 diagnosis to take advantage of the expanded access to unemployment eligibility ordered by Executive Order 2020-10 “Temporary Expansions in Unemployment Eligibility and Cost-Sharing.” An explanation of the simplified unemployment application process is here.
COVID-19 Positive Caregivers and EPTO:
As a reminder, if you are unable to work due to quarantine for a positive COVID-19 test, you qualify for the new 80 hour EPTO bank. We continue to work with management to establish additional EPTO hours that encompass a broader category of Caregiver need related to COVID-19 diagnosis and quarantine.
For questions regarding your COVID-19 test results, please call 517-364-5131.
Displaced Caregivers and Agency RNs:
There have been numerous questions about the Agency RNs who are on-boarding this week. To clarify, if a displaced RN is qualified to work in the same area as the agency staff, the displaced RN will be scheduled to work, as guaranteed in the “Priority to Work” language of Article 59. Our priority is to get as many PECSH Caregivers as we possibly can their full FTE.
Your PECSH officers, negotiating team, and grievance reps all continue to meet regularly with management to push for necessary changes as we all adjust to our new COVID-19 reality. We have a long way to go, but we have some wins to share from this past week:
Effective yesterday, Sparrow implemented an additional 80 hour EPTO bank for full and part-time Caregivers with a positive COVID-19 test, work or non-work related. PECSH continues to work on extending this bank to our full membership, including per diem employees, and to increase the total number of EPTO hours available to COVID-19 positive Caregivers. We are also working to increase the conditions covered by EPTO hours to include necessary care for family members who require care as a result of COVID-19.
We are actively working to keep all Caregivers at work, including those who have been displaced from “non-essential” areas. You are likely to start seeing some of your PECSH colleagues stepping up to work outside of their regular classifications. We know this is likely to cause some confusion and tension as we all adjust to these new roles. Mutual respect and solidarity will get us through these strange times. Remember, we are all in this together!
PECSH members, click here to read more: https://members.minurses.org/content/12/news.aspx
Please email your name, unit and phone number to PECSHcovid19@minurses.org if you are interested in volunteering to work the COVID + and the COVID r/o units (currently 7W and 10W)
EX: Joe Smith, RN - 4S - 517-555-1234
Over the weekend, we worked with management to draft an agreement that creates a new incentive pay structure for caregivers who work bonus shifts in certain highly impacted short-staffed areas of the hospital. More information on this agreement will be released soon.
We met with Amy Brown this morning and with HR separately this afternoon to discuss the hospital’s current response to Covid-19 and to bargain the effects of Covid-19 on PECSH caregiver working conditions, pay, and benefits. This afternoon we provided HR with a 15-point proposal outlining our demands to protect PECSH caregivers who are exposed or potentially exposed to Covid-19, and are now awaiting management’s response. The measures we proposed are urgently necessary to protect our patients and ourselves, keeping us healthy and able to work. Our proposal includes the following key elements:
We have contract extension negotiations currently scheduled for this Wednesday, March 18. We have requested that we redesign these sessions to continue exchanging proposals on Covid-19 and delay negotiations on an extension until we have an agreement in place on Covid-19 effects. We are waiting for a response from management.
We have begun compiling a list of questions from PECSH caregivers, and we are working with hospital leadership to get answers to these questions ASAP. To view the questions that we have collected from caregivers but have not yet been able to fully answer, sign in to MemberLink and look for the file "PECSH-MNA Covid-19 Caregiver Concerns and Questions 3/16/2020" If there are unresolved Covid-19 specific issues that are impacting you or your work area that are not addressed here, please email them to us: PECSHcovid19@minurses.org
We have a new dedicated email address to focus and streamline all PECSH caregiver questions around COVID-19. If you have a question, please email it to: PECSHcovid19@minurses.org Your PECSH Executive Team will respond to all inquiries as quickly and thoroughly as we are able.
The PECSH Executive Team (along with UAW leadership) met with Alan Vierling today to get up to date on the hospital’s preparedness for COVID-19. Alan has committed to maintaining regular channels of communication with union leadership at Sparrow around this evolving issue, and we are committed to keeping our members up to date and answering questions to the best of our ability as they arise.
The most important update we have is that we have scheduled effects bargaining for Monday, March 16, where we will negotiate for solutions to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on PECSH caregivers. Our focus in these negotiations will be on ensuring the safest working conditions possible and on protecting wages and benefits for those who are unable to work due to COVID-19.
What we know from Sparrow: