A coalition of 17 unions representing workers throughout the University of Massachusetts system is demanding Governor Charlie Baker and UMass president Marty Meehan do more to protect the health and financial security of employees during the coronavirus pandemic.
UMass Unions United says student workers and temporary employees across the system are losing pay. Union workers at UMass Amherst are fighting layoffs and reduced hours, and UMass Lowell employees are concerned after their chancellor said there were confirmed COVID-19 cases “among members of the university community.”
“There are no clear guidelines about working remotely, delivering courses to students, or what employees can expect,” the coalition said in a statement Thursday. “Some campuses and departments are doing better than others, but the uneven approach puts people at risk. The inconsistencies are spread not just across the system but also across individual campuses.”
Baker’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.
Meehan’s office issued a statement from chief human resources officer John Dunlap, who said “the health and well-being of our students, staff, and faculty remain our top priority, and our actions are being guided by state and federal public health officials.”
“The financial impacts of this crisis on the university, its students, and employees are rapidly evolving,” Dunlap said. “We recognize the stress this causes for our community. As the full scope of these impacts becomes clear, the university will respond in a strategic, responsible, and transparent manner.”
UMass Unions United said there are still too many employees required to work on campus, and those workers don’t have enough personal protective equipment.
The coalition called for all employees, including student workers, to remain in their jobs and continue being paid and for workers to have the option of working remotely or taking paid leave “if they or those they live with are at high risk of contracting coronavirus and if they need time to care for themselves or others.”
It also said all workers should have access to health insurance and to testing for the virus.
“The piecemeal approach to handling this crisis and lack of clear guidance for students, staff, and faculty are troubling,” the group said. “Leaders of the UMass system must do a better job, and members of the coalition are prepared to carry out the university’s mission in a manner that protects everyone’s health and safety.”