A post on the Management Memo blog will be of interest to many of our readers: “Coronavirus Considerations for Employers with a Unionized Workforce,” by attorneys Adam S. Forman, Michael S. Ferrell, Steven M. Swirsky, and Elizabeth “Libby” Martin of Epstein Becker Green.
Following is an excerpt:
As we have discussed in prior Advisories, the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (“Coronavirus” or “COVID-19”) public health emergency is raising important issues for employers addressing rapidly developing disruptions to the workplace and the lives of employees with mass school closures, workplace closings, the need to reduce staff and expenses, etc. Employers with unionized workforces must take certain additional considerations into account when developing and implementing response plans to the current crisis.
Under the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA” or “Act”), employers have a legal duty to bargain with labor unions representing their employees regarding the employees’ wages, hours and other conditions of employment. In addition, many employers are party to collective bargaining agreements (“CBA”) with the unions that represent their employees that contain provisions directly relevant to the types of adjustments that may be necessary for businesses to respond to the unprecedented challenges this pandemic and its broad effect on society and commerce presents. Absent language in a CBA recognizing an employer’s right to act, either by adjusting schedules, reducing the numbers of employees working, modifying pay and/or benefits, employers generally may not make unilateral changes to these terms without first providing their employees’ union representatives with reasonable notice and an opportunity to bargain over the same. The current public health emergency does not eliminate these legal obligations of employers, although it certainly affects what may be deemed reasonable notice and an opportunity to bargain given the ongoing emergency.
Accordingly, unionized employers planning their responses to Coronavirus should consider the following factors …