COVID-19: Furlough Q & A
Although this won’t be an exhaustive explanation of the subject, due to time constraints, I’ll once again release guidance on this before I am completely ready to do so as I’m fielding a lot of questions on it since the Governor’s order came out.
To start with for all six locals, you can use the guidelines provided in NDERA and its Q&A to determine when it is appropriate to furlough. The “Too Long; Didn’t Read” version is: For now at least pretty much whenever. Additionally, you can grant furloughs to travelers, apprentices, CE’s, Book 4’s, it doesn’t matter. The document only specifies “Employees.” Don’t let anyone tell you differently.
As for process, its fairly simple, if you furlough someone, you simply have to email their Business Manager and us at email@example.com and let us know the name, last 4 of SS, and job the individual was on. I’ll get to why this is being tracked and some regional complications shortly.
The real controversial element to these documents have to do with the idea that a furloughed individual can sign the out of work list AND still retain their furloughed (therefore recallable) status.
2. If employees who lose their jobs due to coronavirus sign the out-of-work list, can they still be recalled by the contractor they were working for before losing employment?
Yes. The NDERA allows those who (i) are laid off due to a coronavirus shutdown, (ii) were absent due to being quarantined, or (iii) refused to be present at the jobsite out of a genuine belief that being present would place them in imminent danger of contracting coronavirus, to return to their original positions with their employer upon the resumption of work on the jobsite, and/or their ability to return, without the need of the referral process, and irrespective of whether such employees have signed their local union’s out-of-work list. Nothing in the NDERA prohibits an employee from signing the out-of-work list.
This new provision of furlough is a significant departure from the existing referral policy which has, until now, required someone to be “unemployed” where “unemployed” is defined as being separated from their last employer and not as this document implies, without work to perform. It is for this reason that we need a record of everyone who has been furloughed, as this will replace a termination slip in the furlough to work referral process.
As I mentioned things are slightly complicated. Local 725 is requiring that individuals still provide them with a termination slip to sign the out of work list. I will tell you that this is not supported by the NDERA agreement and that I have requested additional guidance on the matter to be provided by NECA National and the IBEW International so that this can be resolved for that jurisdiction. Again, I will let you know when this changes.
Finally, in Local 481, additional options are open to employers and employees via a recall policy using layoffs which contain similar provisions to NDERA.
Now…some considerations over the next few days. We know that the Families First Act will go into effect on April 2nd. We regrettably don’t have a lot of details on what that will mean for all of you. As mentioned previously, the administrative provisions have not been released. What we CAN tell you though is that after that date, any individual who qualifies for benefits under that law will be eligible at your expense (reimbursed by a process not yet specified by the Federal Government).
We don’t know if it will apply to furloughed individuals yet. I only mention this as it has been the most common question I’ve been asked. As soon as I get an answer, I will post it. That’s it for now everyone. As always, contact me if you have questions. Thanks and stay safe.