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  Public Employee Press

PEP Feb 2014 Table of Contents
  La Voz

Public Employee Press

HHC flu policy infected with nonsense, DC 37 says

Research and Negotiations Associate Director David Paskin led HHC meeting at
DC 37 Dec. 12.

DC 37 and other unions in the Municipal Labor Committee met Dec. 12 with officials of the city Health and Hospitals Corp. on its mandate that all employees — even those who do not interact directly with patients — be vaccinated or wear masks as a condition of employment.

DC 37 Field Operations Director Barbara Edmonds called the flu policy "so broad it is nonsensical and counterproductive."

"To ask each worker in every facility, including HHC's central office, to wear a mask or be vaccinated is absurd," said Associate Director David Paskin of DC37's Research and Negotiations Dept.

The meeting included leaders of DC 37 Locals 371, 375, 420, 436, 924, 1087, 1407 and 1549, the Nurses Association, Doctors Council, Organization of Staff Analysts, Teamsters and Communications Workers and staff of DC 37's Research and Negotiations and Health and Safety departments. The unionists explored issues involving implementation in areas where workers have no direct patient contact and concerns about excessive discipline for not complying.

The policy, which goes beyond state regulations, applies to all workers at HHC, the Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene and MetroPlus. HHC has about 28,000 employees and 14,000 volunteers, contractors and students.

HHC doesn't apply the policy to hospital visitors and provides no guidelines for mask use and distribution. DC 37 called on HHC to provide more specific guidelines and training on how to wear masks.

The union advises members to comply with HHC's flu policy and use common-sense preventive measures, such as hand washing and staying home when sick, to reduce the risk of spreading the flu.

The vaccine is effective against just three to four strains of flu, but up to 100 flu strains may be active in any season. Officials underscore that one cannot get the flu from the shot, which in most years is considered 65 to 85 percent effective.

"The thrust of flu policy should be patient care, not discipline," Paskin said. DC 37 and the MLC are exploring legal options to protect members against excessive or aggressive management actions.

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