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Q. What causes layoffs?
Q. How could having a union at Tufts help with layoffs?
Q. What is work security and how does it help with layoffs?
Q. How do Work Security Programs work?
Q. Do these Work Security Programs succeed in helping people find new jobs?

What causes layoffs?

When a staff person’s work is going away (like when a grant ends or a department closes) or being consolidated (like with budget cuts) so that a staff person is not needed anymore, management may decide to lay off that person.

(A layoff should not have anything to do with how well a person does their job. Getting fired is different – it’s about a person’s job performance. In our unions, we have a clear disciplinary process that a manager goes through to address a staff person’s performance issue. We have a compatible “problem-solving process” to support the staff person who is in a disciplinary process and to help make sure it’s fair. Disciplinary and problem-solving processes will be discussed in future Q&A onthe TEA website.)

How could having a union at Tufts help with layoffs?

TEA believes that a union should provide security for its members, to protect families’ economic well-being and to give staff the freedom to do their best work without worrying about their future. A strong community takes care of its members.

TEA would want to work with the Tufts administration to set up a Work Security Program to prevent layoffs whenever possible, and help anyone who is laid off land safely in a new job. A Tufts Work Security Program would be designed to fit the Tufts University culture. Hopefully it would rarely be needed, but it would be a clear process that Tufts staff would know was there for them if the need arose.

What is work security and how does it help with layoffs?

The goal of work security is that if a staff person is doing their job, there should always be a job for them. It may not be the same job over a whole career, because change happens. The union and the employer commit to a shared goal of helping a laid off employee land safely in a comparable new job at the same workplace.

HUCTW: As an example, the Harvard Work Security Program was set up by the union and University out of a shared commitment to ongoing staff employment.
Joie Gelband and Laurie Stickels: "At a large employer like Harvard, things are always changing. New technology and emerging science can bring about new jobs and new programs, while at the same time, some jobs go away due to grants ending and departments' shifting priorities.  Our Work Security Program helps staff not to fear change. The program's goal is to help staff stay at Harvard in productive roles throughout their careers - in spite of constant change.”

Pictured left: Joie Gelband, from the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers (HUCTW), and Laurie Stickles from Harvard University's Center for Workplace Development. They  run the Harvard Work Security Program together. 

SHARE: The SHARE union agreement with UMass Memorial hospital says: “SHARE and UMass Memorial agree that we will do everything possible to avoid lay-offs. In health care today, change is the prominent feature of the landscape. By making this agreement about work security, our goal is to find alternatives to lay-offs whenever possible, and when a lay-off must occur to provide help and support to the employee in finding a comparable position.”

Check out some real life work security stories!



How do Work Security Programs work?

The layoff and Work Security Programs that our unions have negotiated are different in each workplace. Here are some highlights:

  • Layoffs are a last resort, and sharing information is crucial. For example, in the spring of 2009 when Harvard proposed layoffs to deal with their financial crisis, HUCTW reviewed the proposed layoffs with management. Together they prevented a number of them from happening.

  • If a layoff must happen, there are guidelines for deciding who it will be such as taking seniority into account.

  • Finding a new job can take time. Potential layoffs get notice ahead of time -- 2 months advance notice in HUCTW (one month for a grant-funded position), and at least one month in SHARE. After the layoff, an HUCTW member’s pay and benefits are continued for 3 more months, with the possibility of extending for up to 3 additional months, while the person applies and interviews for jobs. These are in addition to severance pay and unemployment benefits.

  • The Work Security Programs at both SHARE and HUCTW provide resources for a laid off person who wants training. SHARE has a training fund that pays for classes offered elsewhere, and the Harvard-HUCTW program offers free extensive training through their Center for Workplace Development.

  • Both HUCTW and SHARE provide preference for hiring laid off employees. SHARE’s preference puts a laid off person above other internal candidates as well as external applicants. Both programs offer union and management help setting up and preparing for interviews.

  • The complete descriptions of the HUCTW Work Security Program and the SHARE Work Security Program are available on their websites.

Pictured left, Tasha Williams: Tasha is the President of the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers and represents the union on the union-management Committee on Work Security. She has been at Harvard for 11 years. Tasha worked as a staff assistant and union member with Harvard’s Office of Work and Family, which is part of the Office of Human Resources.


Do these Work Security Programs succeed in helping people find new jobs?

Yes. SHARE reports that, over the years, they have placed almost everybody who wanted to continue working at UMass Memorial after they were laid-off.

HUCTW reports that in this tough economy, competition for jobs at Harvard has been fierce. Even so, the majority of displaced HUCTW members who participate fully in the Work Security Program find a new Harvard job.

Check out some real life work security stories!


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Tufts Employee Association (TEA), Tel: 617-620-7686, Email: tea.info@teawork.org

 




Jerome Leslie, Harvard
A New Career Path

Jerome was laid off from his job as an Editorial Assistant with Harvard Health Publications at Harvard Medical School. “I have friends in the private sector who just got a pink slip, packed their desk and got nothing. I was almost overwhelmed by the level of support I got at Harvard..."

 

Elaine Terlizzi, SHARE
My Union Rep Gave Me Hope

“One day I was told that my department, and my job, were going away. I was being laid off. I’d been laid off before – I was given my notice and told it was time to go. That’s how it was for my manager this time – he was escorted from the building. This time was different for me: We had a union now, and my SHARE union rep, Alana, was there with me..."

 

Laverne Martinez, Harvard
Facing the Challenge Together

"Joie (my union rep) would call me up even before a job was posted and tell me it was in the pipeline. That way I could be ready, prep my resume and cover letter to be the first one to apply. Joie was totally my backbone. There are no words for what she did for me. She had my back through the entire process, beginning to end...”

 

Theresa Gallagher, SHARE
Job Swapping: Lemons into Lemonade

"I heard that someone with my title in another department was going to get laid off, and she was really concerned about losing her job. I volunteered to take her place." A unique part of the SHARE hospital union’s Work Security Program is job swapping. A union member who wants to quit anyway can volunteer to take the layoff of someone who wants to stay...

 

TEA HUCTW SHARE UMMS USW: Union of Social Workers There is no webpage for SHARE at UMass Memorial at this time.