UE Eastern Region Council Meeting

UE Eastern Region Council Meeting is April 24 & 25 2021 (Saturday & Sunday) via Zoom

On the Agenda:
Election of Regional Officers and General Executive Board Members
Shop Reports
Gene Elk, Director of Organizing, will be in attendance and will give a report and updates from UE’s National Office

If you are interested in attending please let reach out Bill Ladd prior to April 1st so we can file for your credentials.

Part Time Vacation, Part Time Sick Time Grievances resolved!

In a big win for the UE VSS locals, UE 228 won two separate grievances for part time workers.

The first grievance was a Step 3 concerning the incorrect vacation deposit amount for a part time worker. Per our Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) Article 28 – Vacation, Fran should have received 20 days worth of vacation because she has been at the NVC for more than ten years. Fran works 29 hours per week so per the vacation schedule in Article 28 she should have received 116 hours of vacation time. When her vacation was deposited the company deposited 45.18 hours or 7.79 days based on the number of hours actually worked (since the beginning of the contract).
By doing this the company did not treat part time employees the same as full time employees, which is required under Service Contract Act.
The resolution is that all part time members will be made whole by having their vacation amounts adjusted to the correct amount, based on the number of scheduled hours just like full time employees.
*Step 2 and Step 3 grievances require a written response per the CBA
Read the resolution here.

The second grievance had been filed at Step 1 concerning the incorrect Sick Time deposit amount for a part time worker. Per our CBA Article 30 Sick Leave Days workers are granted sick time based on “employee’s regularly scheduled” work week by the attached schedule. This language is very similar to Executive Order 13706 (Paid Sick Time).
The grievance was resolved at Step 1 and all part time employees were made whole (will be receiving adjustments to their sick time deposits if it was incorrectly prorated).
*Step 1 grievances can often be an informal discussion about an issue in an attempt to resolve said issue

Insurance Deductibles

UE 228 President Bill Ladd reached out to Bill Yates, the VSS Contract Program Manager, concerning members being told that their deductibles reset on January 1, 2021. The documentation that was given both to members and the negotiating committee last February stated that our deductibles are on a plan year, not calendar year as FCE has informed some people. Here is the email that was sent, and a copy of the document in question.
Update: Bill Yates responded that he is awaiting an answer on this from the HR and Benefits teams.

Update: The deductible is now lined up with our plan year. If you were improperly billed due to the above issue, reach out to FCE. If FCE is unable to help you, email Amanda Chisling and CC a steward.

Sick Time

It’s a new year and that means we all just got our sick time deposits as of the 1st, whether they show up on your timesheet website or not is a different matter.
According to our CBA and Executive Order 13706 employees receive sick time based on the “employee’s regularly scheduled workweek.” Proration is based on the following schedule:
0 – 3.99 0 hours of Sick Leave
4 – 11.99 11.2 hours of Sick Leave
12 – 19.99 22.4 hours of Sick Leave
20 – 27.99 33.6 hours of Sick Leave
28 – 35.99 44.8 hours of Sick Leave
36 + hours 56 hours

If you are part time, check to make sure that the sick time amount you receive is equal the corresponding amount above based on your regularly scheduled workweek.

According to Amanda Chisling, LWH HR Manager, who in an IM stated that employees “can go negative as we try an (sic) work through getting the time loaded there are some issues due to payroll runtime.”
So your time is available to use, please refer to the EO 13706 pointers sheet for usage, and restrictions concerning your sick time.

As always if you have issues please reach out here.

Conversation with our Congressional Delegates Offices About Closures and Telework Issues

During the conference call to our Delegates Offices on January 7th (mentioned in the previous post), we also discussed Facility Closures and Telework issues.

Facility Closures
We informed those on the call with us that the facility can close frequently for weather issues and weather related issues (snowfall, ice storms, weather related power outages), but also for Executive Order days of mourning, Executive Order holidays, low water pressure, power losses (non-weather related), etc. We discussed that apparently the contractor failed to include additional funds for these closures in their bid, so DOS has stated the will not reimburse LDRM for the closures. As such that means we don’t get paid. We continued by discussing how that could quickly become a hardship during a period of bad weather, and that employees would lose wages by no fault of their own and that the loss in hours actually increases the damage that high insurance premiums do to our pay as we lose H&W for unpaid time as well. They were already partially aware of this issue due to helping us in winning Christmas Eve as a paid day off, hopefully their assistance pays off for all closures as we additionally pointed out that the Passport Center down the road gets paid for all their closures. We’ll keep you posted.

Telework Issues
Last but not least of the issues we discussed was the problems with the teleworking network. We reported that employees no longer have the option of going in to the facility to work as capacity has been capped to 40% due to COVID-19. So now when employees have network issues they can possibly take 2 hours downtime, if they are approved to, then use vacation time or take the rest of the day unpaid. We gave them the example of the day that Citrix was having major issues and very few people were actually able to work, albeit very slowly. We informed them that many of you were forced to take vacation or use LWOP.
It was also mentioned, for the sake of doing our due diligence, that several members were unhappy about being required to work when the facility is closed. To us the issue is double bladed; yes you are being required to work when everyone else is off, but you are receiving pay for work while others cannot. Either way we hope to hear back about answers to everything addressed, and when we do we will let you know.

Conversation with our Congressional Delegates Offices About Insurance

On January 7th Zach Knipe, UE International Representative, Bill Ladd, UE 228 President, and Shane Tassinari, UE 228 Chief Steward, took part in a conference call with staff from the offices of our Congressional Delegates, Christian Seaholtz from Congressman Pappas’ office, Madison Lightfoot from Senator Jeanne Shaheen’s office, and Corey Garry from Senator Maggie Hassan’s office.

The main topic of discussion concerned waiving insurance. During UE 728 negotiations Zach presented a letter from an IRS district office in answer to this question. The question of waiving insurance under the ACA (Affordable Care Act/ Obamacare) and SCA (Service Contract Act) had been asked by another facility some time ago, and the IRS reply stated that Group Coverage is not required by the ACA , and that an employer can discharge their insurance obligations under the ACA and SCA by paying out the “employer portion” of the insurance costs. In other words LDRM could comply with both the ACA and SCA by cashing out 100% of our Health & Welfare (H&W) funds. LDRM’s lead negotiator, Steve Friedle, was dubious about the letter’s claim

As a result of this conversation at 728’s negotiations LDRM agreed to draft a joint letter with UE to ascertain whether:

  • Group coverage is a requirement for the ACA
  • If the company can meet its obligations under law by paying employees 100% their H&W funds

While this is great, we know that with everything going on in the world currently that it is unlikely we would have received a response prior to open enrollment, which would likely mean that many of us would be forced to take insurance that we didn’t need or want again.

This was the heart of what we discussed with the delegation. We have asked for their help in hopes of speeding up the reply from Department of Labor (DOL), and the IRS (LDRM wanted confirmation from both). Zach reported that he had heard from a DOL representative that it was not a DOL matter, it is strictly an IRS matter. So we are now waiting for a response that will hopefully be identical to the original letter that Zach presented the company during UE 728 negotiations.

The staff members did ask for testimonials concerning the hardship of being forced to take insurance that is too expensive, and unneeded when you already have other coverage, how the coverage itself makes matters worse (expensive premiums plus large bills), or how you had to drop better coverage because you couldn’t afford to keep your plan due to costs are some ideas of what they may be interested in.

Insurance bargaining

Members of UE 228’s E-board/ Negotiating Committee and UE 728 met with LDRM for insurance bargaining on December 18th. LDRM informed us that there would be no change in premiums or coverage. Also they had mentioned that at the behest of the employees (UE 728 had informed LDRM during negotiations how dissatisfied they were with the current plans) they had reached out to Delta Dental and VSP about coverage. We were informed this week that we will be returning to Delta Dental and VSP as providers, the total cost of both plans is approximately the same, and the coverage is slightly improved over PAE’s plans. Open enrollment will likely occur sometime in late January, early February.

*Dental insurance costs went up slightly and vision costs came down the same, and in some cases, more than the increase in dental.

Merry Christmas to All

Because of you, and some assistance from our Congressional Delegation, we were able to push LDRM and DOS to reverse their positions concerning pay for December 24th’s closure. The quick turn around of collecting over 500 signatures in 4 days got pay for not only us, but our family at UE 728. Excellent work!
The petition remains active as we are still pushing to be paid for any and all building closures. In the past the building has been closed because of severe weather, but also for lack of water pressure, power outages, etc. It is not the fault of the employees that the facility is closed, so why are the employees punished by having their pay cut? Encourage your coworkers to sign the petition if they haven’t already, and share it.

Forum

Since communication is a two way street, we have added a forum. Currently there is a General Discussion board that does not require a login, and several topic boards that can only be seen with a login. Administrators of the forum can remove any individuals that do not belong (i.e. anyone who is not a member).

2021 Insurance

Members of the negotiating committee met with LDRM to discuss 2021 insurance on Friday evening. There will be no changes to the health insurance plans or rates. However we will be returning to VSP and Delta Dental networks.
The company mentioned that FCE is working on a web portal that will allow us to use one login to view our elections, break down of benefits paid out, and residual H&W.
Also thanks to KCC’s bargaining Zach is working with Steve Friedle (Akima Labor Management) to write a letter to both DOL, and the IRS to determine if waiving coverage is allowed and will not result tax penalties. This will not be a quick process, and we questioned whether we’d be able to waive the insurance after the fact. We received the noncommittal response of it being up to FCE/ Cigna.
We inquired as to why employees are being charged for the mandatory life insurance, and admin fee while on COVID leave. This seemed to surprise the project manager, Bill Yates, as well as the benefits administrator. We informed them that people with no benefits, no pay, and no H&W are being charged per pay period for the admin fee and asked what exactly was being administered. We will be following up on this to in an attempt to make sure anyone who was charge the admin fee while out on leave will either have it zeroed out, or reimbursed.