USW Negotiates Coronavirus Protocol with BASF to Protect Workers, Families and Communities

The USW negotiated a COVID-19 coronavirus protocol with chemical giant BASF that may serve as a model for the rest of the chemical industry in keeping facilities operating and workers safe during this worldwide pandemic.

“As a labor organization, we must work with the companies we represent to address the concerns associated with the pandemic,” said USW District 9 Director Daniel Flippo, who negotiated the agreement with BASF Senior Director of Labor Relations for BASF North America Robert Tokar.

Pictured: BASF Council

“Also, at the same time, we are doing all that we can to keep the facilities we work at operating, and we are providing the level of job security that we all expect. We must do this in a manner that does not overreact, yet allows us to take proactive approaches. Ensuring the health and safety of our members is paramount!” Flippo wrote in a letter to USW local unions within BASF.

The Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) laying out the COVID-19 plans covers all workers at USW-represented BASF sites in Attapulgus, Ga. (Local 170-01); Geismer, La. (Local 620); Gordon, Ga. (Local 233); Jackson, Mich. (Local 2659); Kankakee, Ill. (Local 7-429); McIntosh, Ala. (Local 9-562); McIntyre, Ga. (Local 9-237); Monaca, Pa. (Local 10-74); Quincy, Fla. (Local 174); Sandersville, Ga. (Local 9-237-01); Streetsboro, Ohio (Local 8565-01) and Vidalia, La. (Local 9335).

MOA provisions

The MOA addresses workers who are in self-quarantine for a variety of reasons, such as being exposed to or getting ill from coronavirus, having a sick family member and having a chronic health condition like a respiratory or cardiac disorder, diabetes and an immune system deficiency.

In the agreement, BASF will offer up to 14 consecutive calendar days of base pay. .During the pandemic, the company will waive the eligibility waiting period for medical and prescription benefits and the accident and sickness plan.

After 14 days, workers can use what remains of their vacation time, accrued paid time, and unpaid Family and Medical Leave Act time.

If there is a worksite closure due to the coronavirus pandemic, BASF will notify the union 30 days in advance. The company will cover base pay for a month, and pay monthly premium costs for medical, prescription and dental benefits for up to three months.

Also, at each facility there will be a non-evasive body temperature test each day as workers enter their plants to determine if they have a fever. Those who do will be sent home and asked to see a doctor.

Forward-thinking document

“This is the most forward-thinking agreement we’ve received in the chemical sector,” said USW Secretary Treasurer John Shinn, who heads the union’s chemical segment. “It gives us a sense of security.”

Flippo approached Robert Tokar, BASF’s senior director of labor relations for North America, on March 11 about having one uniform agreement to address coronavirus that would cover every USW-represented site. After several conversations, Flippo said, Tokar came to the same realization.

“The reason Tokar took our comments strongly is because of the work of this council. You understand strength and unity and what that means to stand together. That is what brought this about,” Flippo said. “I hope we can duplicate this in other areas.”

BASF Council members are distributing Flippo’s letter and the MOA via email, postings on union bulletin boards and other methods that honor the social distancing guidelines from the federal government.

“It’s important that members understand what the council can achieve here,” Flippo said. “One thing that helps us with this pandemic is knowledge and information.”

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