Breaks/Lunch and Working off the Clock
This session, we completed work on the breaks/lunch and working-off-the-clock issues that we began last week. Please read last week’s report for a summary of that work. We ended last Thursday at a midpoint in the brainstorming session, and then moved on to considering global solutions. (In keeping with our ground rules, we don’t report brainstorming ideas.) Today the teams were able to agree on a global solution to help address the problems that employees experience in this area. The following agreements are to be placed in a letter of agreement attached to the contract.
- OHSU and AFSCME will draft and issue a joint statement addressing employees’ right to take and management’s obligation to provide meal and rest periods, the legal prohibitions against working off the clock and restraints on working at home/away from workplace during one’s time off (including vacations). This communication will stress the responsibility and the right of employees to report violations without fear of retaliation. OHSU will issue a reminder communication every 12 months.
- Employees have the right and would be encouraged to report issues in these areas to their supervisor and to Human Resources personnel. If the problem not resolved, it may be referred to an HR/AFSCME leadership group.
- OHSU will specifically identify break rooms available to employees, and will then post these locations on O2. This resource will also be made known to new hires. Any immediate concerns can be addressed by HR/AFSCME group.
- If employees work in an area without a suitable break room and a nearby conference room is not otherwise scheduled, employees may use it for meal breaks (with appropriate clean-up).
- Upon an employee’s request, the employer will provide him or her with scheduled breaks.
- The union and OHSU will create a task force to look into physical space for breaks. This will be paid time for any AFSCME members participating on the task force. A good-faith effort will be made to implement the task force’s recommendations.
- The Career and Workplace Enhancement Center will develop a training designed to improve workload and workflow and processes. Workload and workflow issues frequently lead to problems such as stress, individual performance issues and pressure to work off the clock, either by missing break or lunch or by staying after their shift to complete necessary work. This class will teach employees and managers how to make necessary changes in workflow. If the work group’s solutions after this are not implemented, the issue will be referred to the HR/AFSCME leadership group.
This agreement could go a long way toward alleviating the problems employees experience with getting their breaks and lunch and feeling pressure to work off the clock to finish work or provide patient care. However, it will require employees to report when they face these difficult situations. Part of the work of the task force will be to provide employees with guidance about how and where to report concern and to protect them from retaliation.
The next issue dealt with by the teams was the problem faced by part-time workers are unexpectedly required to increase their FTE. FTE increases are not always welcome because many part-time workers are part time by choice. Currently, the contract provides protections for employees who have their FTE reduced, but no similar protections exist for employees who are having their FTE increased.
The stories and interests shared by the teams emphasized the hardship faced by part-time workers who are thrust into working more hours than they planned for when they took the job, versus the need for OHSU to be able to meet the business needs with the amount of employees/hours they need to get the work done. We’re pleased that the teams reached an agreement on this issue as well:
If a part-time worker is required to increase his/her FTE by 0.2 FTE (eight hours/week) or more, this shall be the process:
- The employee is advised of the need for an FTE increase and is given the opportunity to accept the increase or not.
- If the employee doesn’t accept the change, the employer will make a good-faith effort to find alternatives that might meet the needs of both parties, including but not limited to hiring an additional part-time worker, reorganizing the work, looking for volunteers and considering job sharing.
- If, after working through (2), no solution other than an FTE increase is practical, the employee shall have the opportunity to accept the increase, look for another position using the contractual benefit of being an internal candidate or go onto the preferred hire list. The PHL will give the employee preference in filling a vacancy for which he/she is qualified and that better meets his/her needs.
Maintenance of Disciplinary Records
This was an issue raised by management. Their story was about the frustration that managers experience when employees who have temporarily improved their performance regress as soon as the two-year period for the removal of previous disciplinary records has passed. The management team expressed concern that removing records created additional liability if an employee who had been previously disciplined causes a problem with a patient or the public and no record of discipline had been retained. They did note that this is not a frequent problem, but when it occurs is it viewed as a serious one. The union team expressed that AFSCME has no interest in protecting “bad” employees, but the union does have an interest that discipline be fair and consistent and that employees who have truly “righted the ship” are not followed forever by a past mistake. We got as far as brainstorming before the session came to a close and we will resume work on it at next week’s session.
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