The outbreak of COVID-19 cases reported by both workers and management at five Johnson Controls, Inc. (JCI) plants have caused concern.
Essential workers at JCI in Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas, Alabama. Florida, Texas, Arizona, Kentucky, North Carolina, and California worry that the company response to COVID-19 could lead to outbreaks and cause shut-downs.
As of May 6th, twenty-seven cases of COVID-19 have been reported in five plants. And the Tarboro, NC plant had to temporarily shut down.
Some workers have stayed home without pay or unemployment.
In response, the union, SMART ( International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation), which represents 1,900 workers employed by Johnson, is asking for protections including paid sick leave, plant sanitation, personal protective equipment and hazard pay.
Twenty-nine SMART Shop Stewards signed a letter to their coworkers launching the safety petition with the following message: “We can’t afford for JCI to wait another day before they take company-wide action. It is more important than ever that we stand together.”
On June 1, 130 members of SMART Local 2 in Albany, MO walked out over a punitive attendance policy and mandatory overtime at the JCI plant. They voted management’s proposal down 98-32 on May 15. These issues have become health and safety concerns since COVID-19.
“If you have a fever or headaches and you leave work or don’t come in, you have to test positive for COVID-19 or will be assessed points,” said Anthony Fletchall, SMART Bargaining team member at JCI in Albany, Mo., in a statement.JCI workers in Albany are allowed three unpaid personal days per year, and management recently rejected SMART’s bargaining proposal, partly, for not providing one additional unpaid day.
Existing attendance policies provide workers in Lexington, KY and Mira Loma, CA up to five sick days per year. Workers in Parsons, KS get sixteen hours paid sick leave per year, and in Huntsville, AL they get one paid sick day per year. Workers in Ponca City, OK, Tarboro, NC, and El Paso, TX have no sick leave at all. In Huntsville, AL, Albany, MO, Ponca City, OK, Parsons, KS, and Lexington, KY the company is not providing any additional sick leave for COVID-19 quarantines, even with a doctor recommended quarantine or when management sends people home due to exposure.
The union said it had requested to meet with corporate leaders, who formed a “crisis command team” led by the Employee Health & Safety division to “ensure our factories… could operate safely,” but a meeting hasn’t occurred.
JCI addressed this issue in a statement to IndustryWeek.
The health and safety of our employees is our highest priority and since the outbreak of COVID-19, Johnson Controls has practiced stringent health and safety practices in accordance with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state and local governments. This has included mandatory use of company-provided or approved face coverings and temperature screening of all individuals entering our plants, physical distancing and regular cleaning and sanitization. Further, the allegation Johnson Controls refused to conduct a dialogue with union representatives is false. Johnson Controls has provided the Union regular updates on our COVID-19 actions across our facilities.