March 21, 2020
Paul L. Cameron
During these extremely challenging times that none of us have ever experienced before or have any idea how much worse things could actually get, your union leaders are committed to working with your employer to do whatever we need to do to prevent and minimize the effect of the coronavirus to our members and their families.
Last week your local leadership attended multiple meetings, conference calls and discussions with our employers to work together to keep our members risk of contracting the virus at the utmost minimum.
Below is a recap of what actions have been taken and some possible plans should the situation take a turn for the worst. Given our diverse local union, geographically and trades, we are seeing first-hand the strategies that are being implemented to protect employees and contain the virus.
· With our manufacturing employers, some companies have indicated that possible plant closures likely in the near future.
· With our municipal employers, many have offered clerical staff a choice to work from home and have separated work groups in half to keep the virus from spreading within the crew. Also, modified work assignments are common. They are as follows: For one week at a time, one half of the crew is to report to work while the other half is to stay at home in a self-quarantine situation and remain on call. Crews will alternate every other week.
· At Telecommunications and Broadband companies, they have modified dispatching to accommodate working from home. Techs are in the process of running new fiber lines to temporary emergency test and treatment sites in preparation for the worst.
· In the service industry, employers have cut back the workforce to the bare minimum and unfortunately, most of our members are on lay-off status.
· At the electric generating power plants, all of the companies who operate the plants, have an emergency plan that is based on the infection rate increasing and then responding accordingly. The level of response from all companies are similar and result with a minimum number of our members being quarantined within the plant to secure there is sufficient manpower to keep the generating stations running to provide power to the public. Any employees who are not quarantined are to remain home and on call.
· The electric COOP’s represented in our local are taking action similar to the municipal employers. Any work that can be performed remotely is encouraged and some work crews are split in half to prevent the spread within the group by limiting interaction between the crews and some employees are reporting directly to the jobsite to avoid possible interaction at the shop.
· At the Penelec/First Energy shops located throughout PA, the company and the local have one common commitment; That is protecting our members during this crisis. In an attempt to limit contact with each other and in consideration to any possible needs of our families, all employees/members will be paid for any time off needed if the virus is contracted by an employee or to care for any affected family member and other personal situations should the need arise. Members will also have the option to modify their work hours as home life dictates and may take company vehicles home to limit contact with other employees. Like most all of the other units throughout the local, management will work with employees to set up smaller work groups within each shop in an effort to limit contact within each location. At the bigger shops, meeting at remote locations at the beginning of a shift may be necessary to limit interaction. Note: If actions taken are not in the spirit of the common objective, we will discuss the situation and as the last resort, either party may immediately withdraw from the agreement.
To recap: The crucial factor is that management is working with the union in this joint effort. We must have limited personal contact with one other. Your local is committed to your wellbeing and therefore, we must work together during this crisis for our own good. This is not an option!
I ask that all members ABOVE ALL, stay focused while performing your job and work together to limit contact with each other and do your part so we can end this pandemic and get back to some normalcy as soon as possible.