- We received many questions about tentative agreements on Section 16: Sick Leave/On the Job Injury and Section 32: Attendance Policy.
- This update helps explain legal requirements of sick leave and clarify the proposed differences between State Bank and CBA Bank.
- We also discuss the bargaining priorities management had for this section, and summarize where we end up: which provisions were improved/gained, which were maintained, and which were modified.
Last week we tentatively agreed on Sections 16: Sick Leave/On the Job Injury and 32: Attendance Policy, discussed in Negotiation Session 15 part 1. The substantial changes in both sections have been the subject of numerous conversations on social media. We’ve also received several questions through official channels (email, contract website, AFA social media pages). The purpose of this update is to address those questions and concerns as well as some common misconceptions.
Why the changes to Sick Leave in the first Place?
The Washington and Oregon state legislatures passed paid sick leave (PSL) laws that require employers to provide sick leave to employees that accrues over time and comes with certain exemptions from discipline/attendance points. The laws’ stipulations conflicted with some of our contractual provisions.
What is required by law?
Many have asked about the proposed changes which include sick leave split into two banks, three potential verification periods per year, and more. Paid sick leave (PSL) laws in Oregon and Washington apply to Flight Attendants. Alaska currently does not have any PSL laws that would affect our workgroup, and California has a specific carveout for employees covered by a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) under certain conditions. These conditions are matched by our contract, so the CA PSL laws do not apply to us.
The OR and WA PSL requirements are as follows:
- Sick Leave Accrual
WA law specifies a minimum sick leave accrual ratio of 1 hour for every 40 duty hours worked, whereas Oregon requires a minimum ratio of 1 hour for every 30 duty hours worked. Our contractual accrual ratio of 1 TFP for 10 TFP worked or credited vastly exceeds this minimum requirement. Although our overall sick bank accrual rate (the highest in the industry) exceeds the minimum by law, management refused to apply more accrued sick leave to a protected sick bank (see “No Discipline” below) than what was legally required. Therefore, it was necessary to split our sick leave accrual into two separate banks to capture all that was earned. One bank meets the legal requirements (State Bank with 1 TFP for 30 TFP worked, or ⅓ of the current accrual ratio). The other bank captures the remainder of the accrual (CBA bank with 2 TFP for 30 TFP worked, or ⅔ of the current accrual ratio).
- No Discipline
The PSL laws specify that no attendance points/discipline can be assessed when using accrued sick leave. This requirement, at a minimum, must apply to the legally required accrual of sick leave (in our case, the State Bank). Management refused to extend this protection to sick leave exceeding the legal requirement (i.e., sick leave balance in the CBA bank). This means attendance points will still be assessed for any sick leave usage from the CBA Bank unless points mitigation is used, just like it is today.
- Verification Process
These laws allow management to request verification (e.g., note from healthcare provider, court order, etc.) from an employee using protected sick leave at any time for the entire year when a sick call is of 4 or more consecutive days. We were successful in negotiating a significant reduction to this allowance and a requirement that management reimburse all out-of-pocket medical expenses. Rather than for every day of the year, management is only able to request verification during specific “Verification Periods” that they determine throughout the year.
- No more than 3 times a year
- No more than 10 days in length
- Must be announced at least two days prior to implementation
- Only applicable for State Bank usage (CBA Bank usage excluded)
- Only for 4 or more consecutive days within the Verification Period
- Same Verification Period for all Flight Attendants in all bases
- Click here for “subject to verification” examples >
- Click here for “not subject to verification” examples >
- End of Year Rollover
The OR PSL law requires up to 40 unused sick hours to remain in the State Bank at the end of the year (i.e., rollover into the next year). Management was unwilling to increase this rollover, so we had to negotiate a solution for any unused sick leave in excess of 40 TFP in the State Bank at the end of the year. For example, if a Flight Attendant had accrued 60 TFP in their State Bank over the course of the year, only 40 TFP can remain in that bank on January 1st of the following year. There was no legal requirement for management to allow FAs to retain the excess 20 TFP. We were able to negotiate the Flight Attendant’s choice of either (1) a 100% payout for sick leave in excess of the 40 TFP rollover, or (2) the ability to transfer the excess into the CBA Bank for future sick leave use. Again, these options are at the Flight Attendant’s discretion
Management’s Bargaining Priorities
Management took the position that introducing the “protected” State Bank, while legally necessary, represented a significant liability. We maintain the position that benefits provided by state laws are meant to protect workers. We continually pushed back on management’s assertion that the incorporation of state law should be a “net zero” transaction: meaning neither party benefits. We were successful in pushing for benefits above and beyond the direct incorporation of PSL laws, while maintaining current provisions.
Management proposed the following:
- Increase attendance point values (e.g., more points for calling out sick with CBA Bank)
- Reduce termination threshold (i.e., subject to termination with fewer attendance points)
- Verify State Bank sick leave usage for any sick call 4 days or greater
- Reduce or eliminate various point reduction provisions (e.g., quarterly record improvement, point reduction form, 18 month roll off), which would have effectively gutted Section 32.
- Reduce the length of a Single Continuous Occurrence (SCO) of illness
- Eliminate Productivity Premium Program (PSL laws do not allow incentivizing employees to not call out sick. A “premium” program not incorporating paid sick leave is not legal.)
Improved or Gained Provisions
A “protected” sick bank with no points assessed (legally required)
Additional applications of State Bank sick leave (legally required) including but not limited to:
- Preventative care
- Closure of the company, school or daycare of Flight Attendant’s child by public health authority
- Other public health emergencies
Provisions limiting the legally-allowed verification process (not legally required)
100% payout/transfer of excess “protected” bank accrual (not legally required)
Significant increase to payout of sick leave upon retirement (not legally required)
Industry leading sick leave accrual (current accrual is 3x minimum legal requirement)
Quarterly record improvement (not impacted by State Bank usage)
End of year record improvement (not impacted by State Bank usage)
18-month attendance point roll off
Attendance point values
Subject to termination threshold at 12 attendance points
Maximum sick leave accrual of 1700 (proposed increase to 2400, current Southwest max accrual)
Productivity Premium Program (60% greater payout, restructured, incorporated State Bank sick leave)
Changed from four Point Reduction Forms per year to three Point Reduction Forms per year
This is offset by the introduction of the State Bank, which is protected from attendance points and can be utilized multiple times throughout the year, provided there is enough sick leave in your State Bank. The State Bank is more flexible in that it can be used to protect a 1-day trip without burning a point reduction form, conserving the form for longer periods of illness.
What is yet to come?
While our total accrual ratio remains the same (and industry leading), we have proposed a variety of ways to increase trip credit and/or pay (boarding pay, ground pay, block or better, RIGs/MPRs, etc.). Each of these improvements would increase the base value of trips, resulting in an increase in the amount of sick leave we accrue for the same trips we work currently. For example, increasing the ADPG from 5 TFP to 6.5 TFP would result in 30% greater sick leave accrual.
Look for more information in June during our next two negotiation sessions.
Review social media infographics accompanying this update:
Continue supporting our efforts by staying informed and wearing your AFA pin while flying and at company functions, such as training. We are Stronger Together, Better Together.
Nic Campbell says
This seems so complicated.
Can understand why they are breaking it into two sick banks however it’s just seems complicated and difficult for me to understand? Maybe I need more of a breakdown??
Jeffrey Peterson (MEC President/Negotiating Committee Chairperson) says
Nic, Is there a specific aspect that you’re wanting more information about? Did you have a chance to look at the related infographics? The Negotiating Committee thinks those are very helpful pictorial explanations of the provisions.