With Passover and Easter here, I would like to extend our best wishes to everyone over this holiday. I would also like to let everyone know that over this holiday we are thinking about and praying for all of our members and their families who are sick or who have lost a loved one due to this pandemic.
These are unprecedented and challenging times for members and families. There is a lot of stress and anxiety out there. This is why the IBEW and Local 94 are working very hard to ensure that our members keep working. By being deemed essential workers, this means that our members will not be treated like other Utilities that has to furlough their employees. Being deemed essential means that our members are not forced to join the 16 million plus who have been laid off over the past few weeks and are now dependent on unemployment and trying to apply for things like healthcare during this crisis. By securing our work, Local 94 has ensured that our members will still be able to provide for their families and will not have to stress about a financial hardship during this pandemic, there are other things to worry about. Throughout this crisis, our office has remained open. We will continue to remain open and working for the membership. However, to keep our members and staff safe, we are restricting walk in service, so please call ahead to make an appointment before coming to the union office.
As essential workers, we must comply with the Executive Orders of our Governor. As the Governor issues new regulations and they become law, we are speaking with all employers to ensure all our members know what is expected to work safely. Local 94 has been and will continue to be in constant communication with all the companies that we have a contract with. We are continuing to work hard to keep our members safe and employed. With things changing on a daily and sometimes hourly basis, everyone’s anxiety and stress levels are off the charts. Changes are constantly being made from the President, the Governor, new guidelines are being issued by the CDC or OSHA, it can be overwhelming. Please know that whenever their is a change, our first call is to our employers to figure out what can be done to keep you safe. We are constantly updating the JHAs (Job Hazard Analysis) so that everyone understands the protocols and so that you can preform your work safely. It is also important to remember that this is the first time anyone has experienced something like this. There is no playbook for how the government, the company, or our local union deals with a pandemic of this scale. However our actions are creating a playbook for how to react to a future crisis.
So what is the union doing to protect the members during this crisis?
- We have an agreement for additional paid time off for members who are sick or need to quarantine. This can also be used to care for a family member who is sick with COVID-19, or to care for a parent or child due to a public health emergency.
- An agreement to provide additional paid time off for the loss of a family member, that can be delayed due to restrictions of social gatherings, and does not have to be taken consecutively.
- Members have been able to telecommute. This keeps them at home and should limit the spread of COVID-19
- We have instituted job site reporting to help with social distancing.
- We have agreements in place for the sequestration of employees on a voluntary basis.
- For our members in Line Clearance Tree Trimming that participate our Local Union Health and Welfare Fund – The Board of Trustee’s are happy to announce that additional cost reductions associated with your benefits, both medical and dental, are being waived during this crisis.
As essential utility workers we work no matter the crisis. Snow storm, hurricane, or pandemic we are asked to come to work and maintain the infrastructure of New Jersey. This is what we signed up for. Your work is powering the ventilators that are keeping sick patients in hospitals alive, the gas that is keeping residents in their homes, and the power that is allowing millions in our state to work and learn from home. You are truly some of the heroes of this pandemic!
We know that all the changes can cause confusion or misinformation. We understand that some of this is unintentional, but it is important to only pass along verified information. If you have a question or concern about a work policy or something that you heard while on the job, please talk to your steward or Business Agent. Local 94 is continuing to work for you so please reach out.
Stay safe, and look out for your Brother’s and Sister’s.