Missouri healthcare workers protest proposed PTO overhaul

University of Missouri employees, including workers with the school's academic health system in Columbia, are voicing their opposition to a proposal that would change staff paid leave policies, Inside Higher Ed reported Aug. 16.  

The changes — which are tentative and were proposed to the university board of curators in June — would affect about 5,100 workers at MU Health Care, some of whom are represented by Laborers Local 955. They would affect about 13,000 University of Missouri employees total.

The plan proposed in June would combine time off for vacations, sickness and personal reasons into one bank of paid time off, according to the Columbia Missourian, citing board documents. Currently, vacation, sick and personal days are in separate buckets. The plan also includes starting at 31 potential paid days off for hourly employees compared to 41, according to Inside Higher Ed. Additionally, the plan gives hourly and salaried employees 18 PTO days and 23 PTO days, respectively, at hire, and would include short-term disability as well as paid parental or caregiver leave.

University of Missouri system leaders said the goal is to modernize the leave policy to increase retention and recruitment, according to Inside Ed.

"It certainly is a tough job market out there in any way, shape or form, and we always want to make sure that we are an attractive option for people who are looking for employment in higher education," university spokesman Christian Basi told the publication.

But some members of Laborers Local 955 oppose the plan, and dozens of people rallied against it Aug. 13, the Columbia Missourian reported.  The union is also circulating a petition against the June proposal. 

"Just from the signatures alone that we’ve received, people are very clear that the time off is one of the few reasons they work here," Andrew Hutchinson, a field representative for the union, told Inside Higher Ed.

The June proposal has not been finalized and would need approval by the university board of curators. Board members are scheduled to consider the issue in September, according to the Columbia Missourian.

Mr. Basi told Becker's there are four upcoming informational sessions beginning Aug. 19 to get employee feedback about the proposal.

"We are encouraging all of our employees who want to learn more, who want to ask questions to come to that and provide the feedback, so we have all the information possible as we continue to review and adjust the plan based on feedback," he said. 

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