Below is a compilation of questions regarding the side agreement that will begin Monday, April 13, 2020 for Department of Human Services members located in CAOs and CSCs. We will continue to update this page as we get additional information. For complete information, please review this email as well as our Commonwealth-specific COVID-19 update page.
What’s the new DHS policy on telework?
We fought for and won the ability for all members to volunteer for telework through their own personal devices beginning next week. This was one of the final sticking points before reaching an agreement, and we’re happy we were able to get it in place. You must still report to work on Monday, April 13th at the start of your appointed shift, but once you confirm your personal device meets Commonwealth requirements and get it set up, you will be able to begin teleworking as soon as operationally possible.
Management also committed to phasing in telework using COP-provided devices over a three-week period. Next week, workers needing equipment to telework in the largest third of offices will receive computers. In the second week (starting April 20), the middle third will receive computing equipment. And starting April 27, workers in the final third will receive what they needed from DHS to telework. Due to limited supplies, management feels this implementation plan is needed so that larger CAOs and those who have already been dramatically impacted by COVID-19 can have fewer people in the office.
So now, all of a sudden, we’re allowed to telework?
Yep! Thanks to your voices and the responses to our SEIU 668 Telework Survey, we could show DHS the number of people willing to use their home computer to telework. This limited arguments based on not having enough laptops available. Members will still need to report to work during their appointed shift Monday, April 13th, but once you confirm your personal device meets Commonwealth requirements and get it set up, many workers will be able to work from home during normal hours.
Why are our hours of operation changing so drastically?
Article 6 “Hours of Work” of our contract gives you rights and puts restrictions on arbitrary schedule changes from your employer. However, in that article management has a contractual right to change the hours of operation in instances of emergencies. Among other things, this gives them the right to change hours of operation and enact schedules like these.
Our efforts to keep members safe have included asks for telework, skeleton crews, and staggered shifts. In our first agreement, staggering was through the two-on-two-off schedule for many of our larger CAOs. With the ending of Paid Office Closures, management indicated it was no longer able to achieve staggering through the two-on-two-off arrangement. The only long-term solution to maintain social distancing was extending hours of operation and splitting workers into an early and late shift.
Why did you not just reject extended hours of operation?
Because we could not. Again, contractually, management has the right to make changes to hours of work, especially during emergencies. Even if we did not reach an agreement, management would have extended hours of operation. We did our best to achieve additional telework and other protections for members before this happened.
How are our breaks changing?
During normal core hours, workers receive two 15-minute breaks and an unpaid 30-minute meal period. This agreement removes the unpaid meal period and replaces the second 15-minute rest period with a paid 30-minute meal period. This means the Commonwealth is now paying for an additional 15-minutes of rest time for shifts during extended operations.
Does this staggering of shifts only apply to the large offices?
Extended hours are for all offices that are either larger in size or cannot achieve appropriate social distancing within their confines. We attempted to move extended hours to all offices for uniform staggering, but could not get management to agree to this. We’re hoping that members in our smaller CAOs will be able to begin working from home as soon as next week thanks to the new telework policies, which will help to alleviate some of the concerns about social distancing. The social distancing mandate still applies to all offices.
Is there anything in the agreement about increased cleaning?
The agreement requires management to work with DGS and collaborate with all landlords to ensure cleaning is in accordance with CDC guidelines. The agreement spells out the specific actions landlords must take in relation to office cleaning. If your office is still not being cleaned in accordance with those guidelines which are detailed in the agreement, please notify your shop steward who will contact the Business Agent for follow-up.
What precautions are being taken to protect workers’ safety when they are working, including those on the second shift?
The Commonwealth has committed to taking appropriate action to protect the safety of the employees working the second shift. This includes working towards extending the hours of the security guards to make sure employees can safely exit the building. In many offices, this is already in place. In some, they are attempting to finalize it.
What is shift differential?
It’s an additional monetary payment workers get for working during certain shifts outside of normal operating hours that it’s difficult to get people into. The terms of the shift differential are laid out in Article 23 of our current contract. Anyone working the second shift will earn an additional $1.25 per hour worked.
Why can’t first shift workers receive shift differential?
The contract only provides a shift differential for a “first shift” if it starts before 6:00 a.m. We attempted to make the start of the first shift a few minutes earlier for members on it to qualify for a differential, but were unable to make this happen.
How are these shift assignments being made, and can I change mine?
Because we worked hard to implement as much telework as we could, we agreed that DHS could continue the A/B shift rotation as-is, meaning seniority was not referenced when initially making the staggered shifts. However, we’ve agreed that seniority shift bidding will occur during the first week of staggered shifts, and those bids will then be implemented the second week (April 20) and all following weeks. During your first week, your seniority will not impact your shift starting time but it will after that.
What does this agreement have on IMCW trainees and their supervisors? Are trainees or their supervisors going to be allowed to telework like the other CAO members?
Supervisors are able to telework, but it is subject to operational need. As long as there are employees in the office, there will be a need to have some supervisors there to oversee operations.
Management is determining which trainees have received adequate training and will be able to telework. If a trainee is not far enough along in the training program, they will need to come into the office to continue their training. We’re awaiting additional information from Inez Titus specifically for trainees and will share that information as soon as we have it.
What is a suggestion for members who are struggling with child care since all of the schools and daycares are shut down?
DHS put out this list of childcare providers who have received waivers to remain open: https://www.dhs.pa.gov/providers/Providers/Pages/Coronavirus-Child-Care.aspx#.
If there are no available spaces or open centers in your area, touch base with your local childcare provider, and see if they’ve applied for a waiver to remain open. If they’ve applied but have not yet received one, reach out to your state and federal legislators and ask them to intervene on your childcare provider’s behalf with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
What can members do to ensure CAOs are cleaned according to CDC guidelines?
If you’re working in a Commonwealth-owned office and have areas that are not being adequately cleaned, please reach out to your Shop Steward and Business Agent to make them aware of the issue. We will need to contact DHS and DGS to get a clear outline of what cleaning was performed and when.
If you are in a building leased by the Commonwealth, then DHS and DGS have already reached out to your building’s landlord, who is ultimately responsible for the cleaning of your office. These leased buildings will have only common areas cleaned (so members are responsible for cleaning their personal desk, phone, computer as well as state-owned equipment like printers and copies). If you find that your building’s common areas are not being properly sanitized or the landlords are not providing cleaning equipment for your personal areas, then please reach out to your Shop Steward and Business Agent.