The PATH Labor Coalition, which represents about 1,000 rail workers, says the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has agreed to union demands to eliminate a controversial new “clawback” policy that they say penalized employees infected by the Coronavirus.
“This retreat by the Port Authority means that PATH workers will no longer face lost wages when recovering from COVID-19, and that’s a major win for workers, riders and public safety in both New Jersey and New York,” said President of the PATH Labor Coalition Joseph Dominiczak.
“Just like when the Port Authority refused to provide free COVID-19 testing to workers before reversing course, it’s clear that management will not treat our members fairly without outside scrutiny and attention on their misdeeds, and our coalition will continue doing whatever we can to hold them accountable.”
Last month PATH management implemented a new policy that would permit PATH employees only 10 paid sick days to recover from the COVID-19 virus, while before they had unlimited time off to recuperate, according to a press release sent on behalf of the PATH Labor Coalition.
After the 10-day COVID-19 sick leave, employees would have to use their vacation days to recover, and if they didn’t have any, they may not have been paid at all or could have seen a deduction in future paychecks according to the PATH Labor Coalition.
PATH managers also made the policy retroactive to April 17 with no prior notice to workers.
“This outrageous retribution policy was designed to punish us for forcefully demanding that the Port Authority provide our members with adequate coronavirus testing, which every transit system in the Northeast was already doing,” said Ronnie Anderson, general chairman of the American Train Dispatchers Association. “They finally gave in on testing, but then they hit us with this cheap shot as punishment for embarrassing them.”
Dan Lacey, general chairman of the Railway Independent Transit Union Supervisors, said the Port Authority has agreed to give any employee sickened by the disease 20 working days to recover without using any personal sick or vacation time.
Workers who need more than that will be evaluated on a case by case basis.
“This was a rotten, dirty thing to do to the workers who keep PATH trains running and a major health threat to riders and the general public,” said Tom Malone of SMART Local 1413 Tower Operators. “Workers who came back too soon could have spread the disease throughout New York and New Jersey. It was an asinine attempt to punish us for standing up for what’s right.”
David Ortiz, local chairman of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, said the PATH Labor Coalition will keep fighting to protect workers from “abusive” management practices.
“We are completely united in our determination to protect our families and the public from any future bizarre policies like this,” said Ortiz. “We should all be working together to beat this disease. It’s just common sense.”