During these unprecedented times of living and working with the COVID 19 virus, our union is seeking ways to protect our members at the worksite and to keep them in pay status. One critical way to keep our worksites healthy and to minimize disease spread is to for members to stay home when they are sick and telecommute as much as possible and that is what the Governor is directing. As we all come to grips with the actions and reactions from COVID 19 virus, the staff here at WPEA are working to try to find answers to the questions being posed by members. We know that many of our members must care for their children and others that depend on them for their livelihood. The direction from the Governor’s office is taking on many different forms in many of our worksites. The office of OFM has stated that all the state institutions should be “creative” with allowing employees to use all forms of leave. Indeed, we have even seen some worksites completely suspend their telework policy and allow the members to work from home. Others are still working out how to extend leave and continue to keep operating. Some worksite are considering closing but have not worked out the details. We are dealing with a many different situation unfolding at the same time and we want to get the best possible outcome for the members where we can. Everywhere we can, we will discuss all options for keeping members in pay status. The goal is to do all we can with the state to minimize the financial impact to the membership. WPEA is in contact with OFM and all the public sector unions are getting frequent updates from the OFM office.
There are so many different actions being taken around the state that we cannot provide nor can the State managers provide answers to all your questions. The public sector unions are advocating to the Governor, for everyone to receive paid time off for this incredible situation but that has not been granted by the Governor. He has declared that many of you should telework, but we are still seeking clarity on that decision as some members have not yet been given that permission from their management. We are seeking more information from OFM and some HR persons about members who must work cleaning the facilities and the protective gear they will need and who are the essential function personnel that must work and how will they be protected. More information from OFM is needed about childcare issues for members with children. As of today, we do not have the answers for these questions with exception of teleworking and as stated, we must get more clarity to get more members that option. As we receive new information and/or get a new direction from the Governor’s office we will share it with our stewards and the membership. We know many of you are frustrated by the lack of answers as are we and we will continue to push for solutions to problems generated by this horrific situation.
The WPEA staff will be taken precautions as well for theirs and our members safety. Our staff is being directed to use all forms of electronic communications to prevent having the social contact that is being discouraged by the public health department. This means that when you contact a WPEA staff person you should be prepared to communicate by some form of electronic communication. Staff has been directed to only meet with members, HR and others in person if necessary. This direction is absolutely necessary to protect our staff as they have multiple sites to represent that could bring them in contact with someone with the virus.
Our WPEA office will also be engaging in teleworking also. Our office will be closed to visitors as of 3-17-20 but we will be monitoring the phones to return calls, answering the emails and providing updates on the website. We will be posting and texting and emailing all that we know to help you get the answers you are looking for. This situation will continue to change daily, and we will do our best to bring you the latest information and decision to help you through this.