This week our member-elected bargaining team made big progress, reaching an agreement to protect workers when DHS introduces a new electronic timekeeper (PTC) system next month, improving language on worker safety, and making late pay less likely.
As we negotiate our new contract, our key issues are the economic proposals, which include raises, hazard pay, and automatic pay increases (via a pay scale) as workers gain more experience on the job. DHS hasn’t responded to these proposals, so we are working with them to nail down a clear timeline that we can hold them accountable to.
Despite slow progress on pay, we made a lot of progress this week on other issues. Most importantly, we reached an agreement on PTC. The state hasn’t done a good job rolling out the electronic timekeeper system (PTC) for homecare workers. (PSWs already use eXPRS to track their time so this doesn’t apply to that program.) Our goal in working with DHS is to make sure that no matter what happens, we still get paid. This week they agreed to protect our data, allow for corrections after time is submitted, have flexibility when there are situations that prevent a worker from using the new system, and conduct orientations in multiple languages for workers who don’t speak English.
We also made a proposal on the late pay issue. In the past, DHS has admitted to issuing nearly 10,000 late paychecks in a single year. That’s completely unacceptable and we have been fighting for years to fix it. This week we proposed to increase the penalty payment for late pay and allow workers an easier process for getting late pay corrected.
“This is a big deal,” said Patty Falkenstein, a personal support worker and co-chair of the bargaining team. “We need a clear process for workers to fix late pay issues, and they need to be compensated quickly. Every day without a paycheck means overdraft fees, missed bills and other hardships. Care providers deserve the respect enjoyed by other Oregon workers.”
Lastly, we saw some movement in our direction on the worker safety issue. Many of you have emailed DHS and told them that they need a policy in place to protect workers from harassment, abuse, and emergency situations like wildfire or pandemics. This week we saw movement on emergency preparedness, specifically around making PPE available to workers. We also saw management agree to add language around behavioral supports, which recognizes that many consumers in that program need behavioral supports and workers need the protection they offer. We are continuing to push them on the key issue of alerting workers when there is a history of harassment or abuse in a client’s home, before the worker goes into that home.
“We’re seeing a lot of progress,” said Rebecca Sandoval, a homecare worker and chair of the bargaining team. “But we also want to make sure DHS starts talking to us about wages and hazard pay. Because at the end of the day, that’s the issue many workers feel most deeply in their day-to-day lives.”
Your member-elected bargaining team will continue negotiations, and we are hoping to reach a full agreement on the new contract in the next month or two. Your support along the way means everything to us.
You can always find the latest news, events and actions at SEIU503.org/IAmEssential.