April 3, 2020

 Eblast April 3, 2020

New Liberal Leave Policy and Economic Relief -- With A Union Assist

The company’s updated and extended Liberal Leave policy, which gives more breathing room to HII employees to handle family situations related to the coronavirus or the COVID-19 disease, goes into effect next Monday, April 6th. The leave change will remain in effect until April 30, 2020. The company’s latest somersault on liberal leave comes at the end of a numbing week of bad news that saw Virginia’s COVID-19 cases leap past 2,000, with reported cases in the shipyard mounting day-by-day.

Many union members had become frustrated and fearful of working in the yard without proper social distancing, as Governor Northam was ordering people to stay at home to prevent the virus from spreading. Calls for hazardous pay have been growing, putting pressure on the company to explore more options with our congressional allies, led by Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner and Rep. Bobby Scott.

The outcome led to the company’s announcement of a liberal leave policy in alignment with the CARES Act. The policy now defines the following situations as eligible for liberal leave: 

  • Employees diagnosed, quarantined, recommended for quarantine or experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and are seeking a diagnosis
  • Employees who are caring for a household member or family member diagnosed with COVID-19
  • Employees who serve as the primary caregiver for a child or member of their household who is unable to attend school due to COVID-19
  • Employees who were scheduled to begin work but their offer was withdrawn, or they were unable to reach the job due to COVID-19
  • Employees who are the breadwinner or major support for their household because their head of household died from COVID-19
  • Employees who do not fall into one of the categories above but want to take liberal leave will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

A full statement of the updated and expanded liberal leave policy is available at: http://www.hii-homeport.com/docs/2020/ermatinger_cares_act02apr20.pdf.

ECONOMIC RELIEF: The extended leave policy opens the door for HII employees to tap into unemployment benefits contained in the $2 trillion stimulus package passed by Congress last week to help keep families afloat during this health and economic crisis. Employees who fall into one or more of the five (5) categories above, as applicable, may be eligible for unemployment insurance, subject to approval through their state’s unemployment agency.

THE UNION DIFFERENCE: So, is this outcome perfect? No. Do more questions need to be answered? Yes. But we’re better off than waiting for the virus to take a break. Unfortunately, we must navigate this nightmare without a roadmap. However, that reality does not mean Local 8888 has been sitting on the sidelines.

Local 8888 President Charles Spivey has been in the company’s ear constantly – raising questions about safety in the yard, complaints about the liberal leave policy and growing economic jitters. President Spivey joined other labor leaders in Virginia who came together to get help and some answers from our representatives in Washington.

He participated in a conference call with Senator Mark Warner and sent him a list of questions from folks in the shipyard to ask company officials whenever they met. That led to President Spivey urging the company to follow Sen. Warner’s advice to take advantage of an economic lifeline in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act that would benefit workers taking liberal leave.

Now, because of the consistent push from Local 8888 members and leaders, shipyard workers who meet the criteria can take liberal leave without taking a hard, financial hit to protect their health or to care for their families. That is the union difference in dollars and “sense.”  

The next eblast will address medical benefits.

Be safe. Be smart.