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.