April 2014 Update
During the last couple of months the labor-management meetings in the NDC, Saint Paul, and Minneapolis Branches, have included the issue of staffing. The staffing issues involved concern the creation of additional duty assignments for full-time regulars, potential changes to existing duty assignments, and the conversion of MHAs to career. Time and time again management has told us that their staffing packages should be approved by the next meeting. That began in early March and as the end of April draws near, approval has not been forthcoming.
When will approval be granted you may ask? That’s a good question. It could come next week or it could come several months from now. Moreover, the extent to which management’s staffing plans will be approved remains unknown. So far this appears to be a zero sum proposition where the entire plan receives approval or none of the plan receives approval; however, as time goes on and the need to move forward becomes more pressing, it is possible that a staffing initiative will be partially approved. Management has been reluctant to share the specifics of their plans due to the fact that they have not been approved. There was an instance, however, where management at one installation provided us with a copy of their staffing proposal; although, that proposal was immediately pulled back after we identified several factual inconsistencies. While our recent focus has been on the metro area installations, we continue to monitor similar situations in out-state Minnesota and in North Dakota.
In light of management’s in ability to secure approval for their staffing initiatives, the question, at least in regard to the conversion of MHAs, is whether the Union will secure conversions as a matter of enforcing the contractual percentages before any management plan is approved. This is another situation which is being monitored closely.
That raises another issue of which MHAs need to be aware. The National Agreement in Article 12.1 identifies the probationary period for new employees. That probationary period is waived under Article 12.1 E for MHAs who have serves two successive 360 day appointments with one immediately preceding career conversion. Specifically, Article 12.1 E states:
MHAs who successfully complete at least two successive 360-
day terms will not serve a probationary period when hired
for a career appointment, provided such career appointment
directly follows an MHA appointment.
Considering that the position of MHA was not created until February of 2013, it is not possible that any of our current MHAs will be able to avoid a probationary period. To be clear, should you be converted to career in the near future, you will be serving a 90 day probationary period. It is of paramount importance to understand that probationary employees are denied access to the grievance procedure in regard to separation. In fact, I’ve heard in other parts of the country that former MHAs have been separated during probation for trivial misconduct. They lacked access to the grievance procedure so they were unable to challenge their separation. Some didn’t know they were on probation and I am determined to see that this doesn’t occur in Local 323.
Fortunately, Article 17 allows us to conduct another orientation for newly converted employees. We are prepared to conduct such orientation in all Branches and during this orientation we will discuss the specific dynamics of serving a probationary period. To be sure, being on your best behavior for the next 90 days will be included.