Published: July 28, 2020

Letter of Agreement

COVID-19 Pandemic and Alternatives to Layoffs


This Agreement is entered into between the SEIU Local 503, OPEU, hereinafter the Union, and Eastern Oregon University (EOU), Oregon Institute of Technology (OIT), Oregon State University (OSU), Portland State University (PSU), Southern Oregon University (SOU), University of Oregon (UO), and Western Oregon University (WOU), hereinafter the Employer, the Universities, or the University. 


Due to the budget and workplace impacts resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is necessary for the Universities and the Union to work collaboratively in order to keep our campus community safe while also protecting jobs and ensuring a smooth reopening of campuses for the fall term.  


Alternatives to Layoff


Pursuant to Article 44, Section 11 of the 2019-2021 OPU/SEIU collective bargaining agreement (CBA), an individual University and the Union shall meet to discuss protecting bargaining unit members’ jobs during this crisis, share all known University budget information and discuss whether any alternatives to layoffs are feasible. If a University wishes to utilize the two alternatives to layoff Programs below, they shall meet with the Union to determine:

  1. Affected Employees;
  2. Which of the Programs to participate in;
  3. Duration for the Program(s) being offered; 
  4. Notice period; and
  5. Agree on the above through written agreement. 


Work Share Program: Through the term of this letter of agreement the Universities may ask the Union to agree to a joint application to the Oregon Employment Department’s Work Share Program. The Work Share Program allows a University to reduce employees hours between twenty and forty percent (20% – 40%), depending on the availability of work related to their positions as an alternative to layoff.  


Eligibility for the Work Share Program requires six-months of full-time or twelve-months of part time active service at the University. Participants must timely complete required forms for the program as communicated by the University. Employees who do not meet the criteria to participate in the Work Share Program will be allowed to participate when they become eligible. If deemed ineligible, the University shall immediately notify the affected worker and the Union. If it is not feasible for the University to maintain the ineligible employee’s hours the employees’ may have their hours reduced and shall have to file their own unemployment claims but all other terms of this agreement and the Work Share Program shall apply. 


During the Work Share period, Employees will continue to receive accruals and all other fringe benefits based on their FTE prior to the reduction in hours. Employees currently eligible for health benefits will maintain the same level of benefits.


The Universities will work cooperatively with the Union to ensure Employees will have options for utilizing paid leaves during the time they are on Work Share. When a Work Share employee utilizes contractually permitted paid leave during a work week then the University will reduce available work hours for the employee by the amount of the approved leave hours and the employee shall use the appropriate amount of paid leave in order to maintain their eligibility for the Work Share Program.


Whenever possible, the university will assign the hours reduction equally among all classified staff in a work unit. If a greater hours reduction must be assigned to some classified employees and not others within a work unit where multiple classified staff are in the same classification or perform the same job function, then considerations shall be given to those classified employees with the most seniority, provided that the employee is position qualified.


In the event Work Share Employees’ positions must be transitioned to layoff prior to the end date for the University’s Work Share agreement as a result of COVID-19 impacts, these Employees will, instead of being laid off pursuant to Article 44, be placed in the Universities’ Extended Benefits Program. Universities will provide notice of transition to Employees and the Local Union President no later than fifteen (15) days prior to the effective date of the transition.


Extended Benefits Program  


Employee’s placed on the Extended Benefits Program shall have the choice, from the outset and then at any point during their participation in the program, to either participate in the program or proceed to layoff in accordance with Article 44. Under the Universities’ Extended Benefits Program, and pursuant to further terms identified below, a University will: (1) place Employees on Leave Without Pay (LWOP) following their notice period; (2) pay both the employer and employee share of the Employees’ health care benefit contributions; and, (3) either return the Employees to their former positions without loss of seniority by  the agreed upon time period or provide notice of layoff. 


Employees who are eligible for the University-provided health care coverage shall be provided continued core health care benefits coverage for the period of LWOP. During the LWOP period, the University will pay both the Employer and the Employee’s health care benefit contribution. Optional insurance plans will continue to be the responsibility of the employee and the employee may cancel these benefits during the LWOP period. 


Unemployment Insurance: It is the parties understanding that Employees participating in either program above are likely eligible for unemployment compensation because the Oregon Employment Department notes that any employee who is out of work because of COVID-19 is now eligible for unemployment benefits through the State. This includes employees who are temporarily laid off, furloughed, unable to work because they have to stay home to care for a child due to school closures, and/or unable to work because their employer has ceased or curtailed operations due to COVID-19. Employees who are eligible for State unemployment insurance will also likely be eligible for the federal government’s expanded weekly unemployment insurance benefit of $600 through July 25, 2020.


Payroll Draw: Because of the backlog in Unemployment Insurance claims many employees who are participating in the Extended Benefits Program have yet to receive any unemployment benefits. This has created a significant hardship for employees and their families. Through the term of this agreement employees participating in the Extended Benefits Program shall be able to access an emergency payroll draw not greater than one month of their regular pay. 


For payback options, an employee may:

  1. Exchange, on a one-time initial election, all or part of vacation and/or compensatory time to fully or partially offset the employee draw; and/or
  2. Employee’s choice of equal monthly payments for either 8, 12, or 24 months.


If the affected employee is transitioned to layoff or terminates University employment the University will deduct the owed money from the employees leave balances.


Return to work: When work returns to the units, the University will return employees to work before the agreed upon end date for either program above. The employees will return to work by seniority order within the work unit. 


Layoff Rights: Should the University be unable to return employees to work by the end of the agreed upon time period due to a lack of work or for financial reasons they shall be separated from employment and granted all layoff rights, pursuant to Article 44 of the parties’ CBA. The University will provide the layoff notices at least thirty days before the separation date. Please note that employees in Trial Service may not have layoff rights provided for in the CBA.


Telecommuting Opportunities


In an effort to support SEIU-represented classified employees, the Universities will approve an employee’s request to telecommute unless the employee’s position is one that is incapable of being performed away from the worksite, the operating needs of the University would otherwise require the employee to be at the worksite, or resources to perform the work required by the employee are unavailable (i.e., computers, network availability, etc.). The University shall provide, in writing, the operational need for denial. If the employee disagrees with a University’s decision, the employee may appeal the decision in writing to the University’s Chief Human Resource Officer (“CHRO”), or designee, within five (5) calendar days of receipt of the University’s decision. The University’s CHRO, or designee, shall respond within three (3) calendar days approving or denying the telecommuting request. 


Flexible Scheduling, Emergency Paid Sick Leave, and CBA Leaves 


The State of Emergency in Oregon as it relates to COVID-19’s global pandemic is likely to present uncertain times ahead. SEIU represented employees must always consider their well­being and the well-being of their families. To this end, the Universities agree to provide all SEIU represented employees with two (2) weeks of emergency paid sick leave pursuant to the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (“H.R. 6201 “), but will make this leave available to all SEIU represented employees without the need for a qualifying event listed in H.R. 6201. This emergency paid sick leave is up to eighty (80) hours for full-time employees, prorated for part-time employees, and paid at the employee’s regular rate of pay. This leave is in addition to the leaves accrued and provided for by the CBA, and there is no requirement that the employee use or exhaust their accrued leaves prior to using the emergency paid sick leave. 


While it is recommended that where an employee may need to be away from the worksite for personal or health related reasons, including the need to be at home for the care of a child whose school or place of care has closed due to this public health emergency, the employee first request a flexible schedule or telecommuting, the employee need not request such first and may use the emergency paid sick leave above. 


If the employee requests a flexible schedule or telecommuting, the Universities will work to approve flexible scheduling if operational needs permit and telecommuting in accordance with the language above. When flexible scheduling or telecommuting are not possible, an employee may use their own personal leave, vacation time, emergency paid sick leave or sick time for reasons stated in the CBA or Oregon Sick Leave Law, or leave without pay to cover the time away from the worksite.


Employees shall be eligible for hardship leave under Article 36, Section 8 of the CBA provided an employee has exhausted all other paid leave including the emergency paid sick leave.


Environmental Cleaning and Disinfection 


To ensure the safety and health of SEIU represented employees, the Universities will provide necessary and appropriate, CDC or OHA required training, safety equipment, supplies, and personal protective equipment to employees who are required and scheduled to work by their supervisor to assist with environmental cleaning and disinfection. 


Exposure Risk 


If a University has knowledge that an employee has been potentially exposed to someone with COVID-19 during the course of their work, the employee’s supervisor will notify the employee within one (1) business day from knowledge of the exposure.


Employees assigned to work in an area that is confirmed to have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 shall be notified prior to entering the work area. Employee’s assigned to sanitize and clean the area of exposure shall have the proper PPE provided pursuant to CDC and OHA guidelines. 


University Reopening


The health and safety of students, faculty, and staff should be the primary consideration in decision-making about when to reopen a campus. The classified staff—through their union— should accordingly participate in decisions related to how best to implement a campus reopening. In order to ensure full participation, Universities shall be transparent, shall keep the classified staff fully informed, and shall consult meaningfully with the Union leadership. University committees tasked with developing the plan for reopening the University shall have at least one classified staff representative chosen by the Union. The written reopening plans will be provided to the Union for their consultation prior to being sent to the University’s governing board for approval.


COVID-19 Health & Safety Committee: Universities shall establish a COVID-19 Health & Safety Committee to review ongoing questions and concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The committee shall provide Union consultation for proposed updates to the written reopening plan. The committee shall have at least one classified staff representative chosen by the Union.


Self Check: If a University establishes a procedure for employees to self check for COVID-19 symptoms, the Union will be consulted about the procedure prior to implementation. The Universities will ensure any self check will occur on work time for the employees and will keep any data collected confidential. Self check will not be required if you are working from home. If an employee who is unable to flex or telecommute is denied an opportunity to work because of the self check procedure or the University sends them home because they are suspected of having or being exposed to COVID-19, the impacted worker shall be placed on paid administrative leave. 


Additional Provisions 


Joint Program Presentations: The University will allow employees to attend presentations held jointly by the Union and University about the Programs during work time. 


Shared Sacrifice: The Universities agree that any sacrifice made by classified workers will not be greater than that of any other employee group at a University. If a University decreases any reductions in compensation or hours for unclassified administrators as a group at any time, then the University agrees to do the same for classified employees at that time.


Vacation Cap: Given the difficulty for many employees to utilize vacation leave during the pandemic the Parties agree to increase the cap on accrual for vacation time to 350 hours through the term of this agreement. Employees above 250 hours in June of 2021 shall be given a reasonable period of time to use the vacation leave or at their choice be cashed out for any amount that does not bring their balance below 200 hours. Employees who have lost leave (Vacation, personal or compsenatory), due to the cap and/or workshare, beginning May 2020, shall have the leaves reinstated and added to their leave balances.


Recall Period: The Parties agree to increase the time an employee can be on the on the recall list to twenty-four (24) months (Article 44, Section 9. (A)(3)(b)) for employees who have been laid off since March 8, 2020. 


Legislative or Executive Action 


The Parties recognize that legislation and executive actions related to COVID-19 are ever evolving. In the event Federal or State legislative or executive action affects a University or the Universities such that it is necessary to modify this LOA, USSE’s Director of Labor Relations Services shall notify the Union.


This agreement does not waive or limit the University’s ability to implement procedures or actions under previously agreed to Letters of Agreement and the SEIU collective bargaining agreement and shall not set precedent for any future employment actions or negotiations. Where a conflict exists between previously agreed to LOAs this agreement will prevail. 


This Letter of Agreement shall be valid through June 30, 2021.


SEIU, Local 503, OPEU Oregon Public Universities


_____________________________ _____________________________

Melissa Unger Brian A. Caufield

Executive Director Chief Negotiator 


Dated: ______________________ Dated: ______________________