Protect 580 Members
UPDATE: On Tuesday March 17th, we received an email from the Desk of the Director announcing additional flexibility in the teleworking policy, such as not needing a state issued device and waiving restrictions on new employees. Despite this, administration at all agencies are making it difficult for staff to work from home, are not being flexible, and are denying applications. Worker safety is not being prioritized in these challenging times. There are still well over 25 people in state buildings/offices and we are not doing our part to flatten the curve.
Our governor has stated that non essential employees should telecommute. However, she is not allowing this for her own employees.
A message from our union states “agencies are following directives from DOA on teleworking policy.” This is not the case and interpretation from Administrators is dangerous. Workers are being exposed to Covid-19 and will spread this throughout the state. Workers were also by DOA that the 6 month waive date will be waived. New workers have been denied and are still in state offices despite telecommuting duties they could perform.
When workers join unions, they expect to be treated fairly and equally. They also expect their voice to be heard in times like these. This should be true for all workers not just Union members. However, at this time, we are being treated differently due to not having access to certain technology. Does one worker become sick solely because of their start date within an agency or because they do not have access to a laptop? Laptops were to be rolled out to all workers last year. There are veteran worker that have yet to receive them. Workers were told that VPN access can also be given but no one is able to set this up as it is a difficult process to navigate with several glitches. RI's technology for workers is archaic and far behind other states. The directive from the DOA was that telecommuting could be done without state equipment for non-essential members. However, this is being denied to 580 members. While schools and daycares are out we rely on grandparents to watch our children. It is a matter of time before our families are sick. As of March 19 several state workers are on quarantine for exposure and they have been in and out of state buildings. Why aren't those workers quarantined that were also exposed in their workplace? And why are these quarantines not made public? Also, if you are exposed in the workplace to a positive case one is being advised as of now you must discharge your own time. This is trying for those with limited time and now they must take leave without pay.
Since we developed this petition on Monday March 16th we have now feel as though 580 Leadership is working on these matters diligently but there is only so much they can do. It appears it is the Administration from different state agencies that are nterpreting DOA policies the way they see fit and denying workers the ability to work from home.
580 workers request a clear response regarding Covid-19 Virus from Administration from BHDDH, DHS, and DCYF. 580 members work throughout the state of Rhode Island and often serve the most vulnerable population. In this time of uncertainty we request reassurance of the safety of our members. It is imperative that members have safe workplace conditions so that clients can be served once this pandemic is over. It is our expectation that all 580 members receive support and flexibility as workplace policies adjust in response to Covid-19.
At this time we request that 580 leadership contact the appropriate Administrators with the following requests:
Non-Essential employees should not be required to report to state offices at this time if they can work from home. Administration should assess which staff are critical in order for agencies to run without issues. For the safety of our workers telecommuting should be considered for any eligible employee. It is not accurate that all workers have laptops. There have been laptops in the building for several weeks but they have not been distributed to staff. Workers are creating tickets and they are backlogged. This is not ITs fault but the lack of planning by the state in making sure workers have up to date tools in order to do their job is unacceptable. Several workers are able to work from home but are struggling to access the system. They now will need to report to work.
Immediate protections should be put in place for workers over 60 and workers with medical conditions that put them at increased risk for Covid-19. Telecommuting should be approved for all non-essential state workers immediately in order to keep employees and their families healthy. Staff was told critical employees would have access to laptops but this has not yet occurred. Workers should be approved to telecommute indefinitely until the State of Emergency is lifted. Technology should be utilized and provided swiftly in order to stay connected to families. Workers should be given a consistent and safe directive in regards to contact with our clientele. Workers should not be medically vetting clients for face to face contact as this is not in our realm of expertise. A uniform policy needs to be created and implemented in regard to face to face contact. At this time clients should only be seen when face to face contact is deemed critical. Workers should not be penalized if routine visits or meetings are not held. In the event of illness workers should be given flexibility around utilizing sick time. Essential employees such as CPS should be allowed to work remotely as well and respond to emergencies when it is needed.
We request that Administration keep in more consistent contact with workers. We ask that Union Leadership have more presence and give more support to members. We request that emails be sent out prior to the end of the day when possible so that workers have time to respond as well as prepare for new requests. For example on Friday 3/13 at DCYF telecommuting requests were offered 10 min before the end of the day and workers were unable to complete and submit requests. Then on Sunday 3/15 daycares closed leaving workers scrambling for childcare. We ask that workers fears regarding Covid-19 be met with compassion and understanding instead of being minimized. At this time being told to just “wash our hands” is unacceptable. Finally we request Administration have transparency when reporting possible exposure to Covid-19.
It is our expectation that all 580 members regardless of their agency be afforded these flexible policies. We look to Union Leadership to advocate for our safety at this time.