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Members of Metro’s largest union made another statement Friday in opposition to the transit agency’s stance on sick leave, but this time had a doctor to help make its case.
Richard Binder, professor at the school medicine for Virginia Commonwealth University at the INOVA campus in Fairfax and Georgetown University, stood during a news conference outside the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 shop in northwest D.C. to represent the medical community.
He called Metro’s policy for workers to give advanced notification on being sick “ludicrous.”
“If everybody knew they were going to be sick 72 hours before they got sick, then we could close all the emergency rooms around the country,” he said. “We’re threatening both the health of the membership of the union and the health of the riding population.”
Metro workers in attendance, including Jerr Dantzler of Silver Spring, covered their faces with hospital masks, which they said they would need to wear to protect themselves and riders.
“You never know when you are going to be sick,” said Dantzler of Silver Spring. “You have to make allowances for these types of things. That’s why it’s called sick leave.”
Metro officials have a different view.
The agency implemented a revised absenteeism policy March 1 to reduce the number of employees taking off.
In February, an internal review showed more than 100 employees had extended leave beyond the time limits and another 100 employees were reviewed to determine proper disposition of their employee status.
One of the union’s main contentions with the policy is that employees are now required to provide a 72-hour notice to receive “pre-approved sick leave.”
Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said Thursday workers can still call on the same day to inform a supervisor if they become ill. The policy states a person must report an absence “no later than one hour before their scheduled report time.”
Wiedefeld said the agency has a right to implement the policy, based on cost savings and attendance history.
The union contends it should’ve been negotiated with the union, just like the previous policy.
Meanwhile, workers handed out small pieces of paper to passersby at the Friendship Heights Metro station with a message reading, in part: “My boss wants me to get my passengers sick. Tell [Wiedefeld] it is asinine to expect 72-hour notice for acute illness.”