Below are some Frequently Asked Questions about Severe Weather, with the relevant language from the SHARE contract. Key points are underlined
1) How do I find out what I am supposed to do if there is a state of emergency or other severe weather?
The SHARE contract encourages each department to develop a plan that fits their department’s needs – obviously a nursing floor has different staffing needs than a billing department. Both jobs need to get done, but you can catch up with billing the next day; you can’t do that with patients. The contract says:
Department severe weather plans could include: what staffing level is required in the case of severe weather (such as full staffing, skeletal staffing, or no staffing necessary); how employees will find out if they are required to be at work that day, who to call and how to reach them; and whether there is a difference in their department between the plan for severe weather and the plan for a declared state of emergency. Department managers should review the severe weather plan for their department with all employees annually before winter weather begins. (Staffing plans, p.103)
If your department does not have a plan, talk to your manager, or call the SHARE office for help in approaching your manager, to discuss creating a plan.
2) What if my department is closed?
SHARE members in departments that close, or that allow some or all employees to stay home, have a few options. The contract says:
…employees may use earned, vacation or personal time, or choose to go unpaid for the hours they missed. When appropriate, an employee may make up the time that week, by mutual consent between the employee and the supervisor. Made up hours will be paid at straight time unless weekly hours total more than 40. (Pay for missed hours, p.104)
3) What if I don’t want to use my own time?
You can volunteer to work in another area. In negotiations, the Hospital has always taken the position that all positions are “Essential” in severe weather or a state of emergency. Part of their argument is that on these days they need all the help they can get and would happily put to work anyone who can get in. SHARE has always taken the position that no one should be forced to take time without pay, or use their own time, if they are available to work. This applies to severe weather, a low census, flooding, or other reasons a department might be inclined to send employees home. So, the contract says:
If a department is closed for all or part of the day due to severe
weather, employees may go home (see pay for missed hours) or choose to
report to/remain at work. The hospital may assign people who stay at work
to perform different functions than their normal job. For a work
assignment in an area other than your own, page the nursing supervisor/bed
management: for the University campus, pager #2044; for the Memorial campus (on
evenings, nights, weekends and holidays) pager #3318. (Department closing,
early dismissal, p.104)
No SHARE unit member shall be required to take TOWOP. When all other options have been explored, and there is no need
to float, the SHARE unit member may take TOWOP or may use earned time or
vacation/personal leave, whichever is applicable. If the SHARE member does not
want to leave work (either unpaid, or using their own ET, or vacation/personal
time whichever is applicable), the employee may choose to stay and be
assigned reasonable other duties for which they are qualified (in this
case, contract and practice restrictions on cross-campus and/or intra-campus
floating will not apply.) If there are no such duties, and the
employee is sent home, the employee will be paid. (TOWOP, p. 103)
4) Can’t they just send me home and pay me without having to use my time?
UMass Memorial could choose to send/keep employees home and pay them rather than finding other duties for them (see TOWOP, p.103), but it is very unusual for them to do so. Many years ago, at both UMass and Memorial, in cases of severe weather like last week’s state of emergency, it was more common for employees who were not required to be at work to be sent/kept home with pay, and employees who were required to be at work to be given additional pay or comp time for having to work. That has not been common practice for a while.
It is not a violation of the SHARE contract for the leadership of UMass Memorial Medical Group and/or UMass Memorial Medical Center to send employees home with pay. But it is not required by the contract either. (See question #3 for what the contract requires.) When there are inequities it has a negative impact on morale. SHARE is discussing this with hospital leadership.
5) How am I supposed to get to work if there is a travel ban?
Human Resources has assured us that any employee on their way to or from work should be allowed passage if they show their Hospital ID. We have heard some stories about people being given a hard time by the police for being on the road. If anyone received a ticket or a warning, let us know. HR will help you get it sorted out.
If the roads are impassable, if you live at the top (or bottom) of a steep icy hill, or if you take the bus to work and buses are not running, you may have a problem getting to work even though the police would allow you to. There is not one simple solution to this. UMass Memorial no longer provides rides in a coordinated way for people who can’t get in to work. If you are required to be at work, or you want to come in despite the storm, you can start by talking with your manager and coworkers about whether there is someone you could carpool with, or if they have other ideas. We will be discussing this further with management.
6) If I don’t come in during a storm, will it be held against me?
It depends on whether your department allowed you to stay home. If they did, then the absence will not count against you. The contract says:
If an employee does not work because the department is closed, or
because they are not required to come to work, it will be considered an excused
absence. Late arrivals covered by an established grace period will be
considered an excused absence. Other absences from work on a severe weather day
will be considered unexcused. (Excused and unexcused absences, p. 104)
To see the full contract language about Severe Weather and TOWOP, go to pages 103-104 of the SHARE contract
If you have other questions, or want to discuss any of this further, please call the SHARE office at 508-929-4020.