Equal Distribution For Overtime: Prearranged Overtime For Major Events
Pictured from left to right: Chuck Nunes, ESC Steward and Electric ADE, Matt Bandoni, ESC Steward and Lead Mapping Tech, Carl Harland, ESC ADE, Bradley Featherston, Electric ADE, Garick Abernethy, Electric ADE, Joel Foster, Electric ADE and ESC Executive Vice President, and Lindsey Barbato, ESC Steward and Gas ADE.
In a meeting room at the San Ramon Valley Conference Center, a union caucus convened during the Federal Mediator Reconciliation Service (FMCS) mediated interest-based bargaining with PG&E over prearranged overtime for major electric events.
Your committee is negotiating a contractual method for members to voluntarily work pre-arranged overtime during major events that comply with the contract’s provisions for equal distribution of this overtime. The contract currently delineates two types of overtime for hourly-paid members. When you are called in to work overtime after hours, this is called emergency overtime (EOT) and is compensated at double time rate. When you are assigned overtime during business hours, but perform the work outside of business hours, this is pre-arranged overtime (POT) and is compensated at time-and-a-half for up to twelve hours. After twelve hours, you will earn double time.
Letter of Agreement (LOA) 22-08 enhanced the contract provisions for pre-arranged overtime during major electric events. All pre-arranged overtime worked for such events is compensated at the double-time rate for most classifications involved in restoring power to the public. This agreement incentivizes members to volunteer for prearranged overtime rather than waiting to be called in at the double-time rate. When workers are ready to work as soon as an emergency occurs, it contributes to faster restoration of power compared to waiting for employees to respond to a call-out.
LOA 22-08 has created a third category of overtime: Pre-arranged Overtime for Major Events (M-POT). While the contract includes provisions for the equal distribution of emergency overtime (EOT) and prearranged overtime (POT), there are currently no specific provisions for the equal distribution of M-POT. Because of the urgent need to respond to the winter storms of 2023 and the lack of a timely alternative, the EOT method was used to assign M-POT during the major events of 2023. However, this approach resulted in a significant unequal distribution of overtime.
The Union is working to reach an agreement that will ensure a more equitable distribution of this newly introduced type of overtime before the storm season.
Make Working Remotely Work
Making remote work effective was a central issue at the ESC PG&E Unit annual meeting this year. In that meeting, I shared that in several venues, operations leaders have expressed the opinion that workers who work remotely should return to the office. They argue that remote work has created a lack of availability and support in the field. The Union counters that, due to numerous centralizations and reorganizations, most workers supporting the field would not be located in the yards anyway. Also, much of the breakdown in support occurred early during the pandemic when estimators had phone numbers associated with desk phones that were not being monitored, an issue that has been rectified. However, the frustration and the perception of a lack of support have persisted even though returning to an office would not result in better support.
In discussions with PG&E, the Union strongly emphasizes the benefits of remote work. From elevated productivity to increased capabilities for collaboration with other employees, remote work benefits PG&E. Despite the clear benefits of remote work, it is challenging to counter the erroneous availability narrative because there isn’t a bustling office for PG&E leaders to see. There is a busy office environment; we are all working together, but PG&E leaders don’t witness that activity in a physical space. Therefore, the Union urges members to take advantage of opportunities to communicate to PG&E leaders the benefits of remote work to the Company. Speak up and share your (or your team’s) professional commitment to supporting the field and each other, and how remote work helps you benefit the company.
Recent General Rate Case (GRC)
In response to significant rate increases attributed to inflation, the CPUC has recently adopted a decision on PG&E’s General Rate Case (GRC) that cuts PGE’s revenue requirement request by $1.8 billion. Utility rate increases have generated significant complaints from CPUC intervenors and the public, to be expected when the public has been experiencing significant inflation in all areas of spending. The CPUC was extremely motivated to be seen as responsive to the public’s needs and contain the impact of increasing utility rates. Thus, the initial draft decision contained severe disallowances for many capital investments requested by PG&E. An alternative decision, allowing for more capital investments, but still significantly less than PG&E’s request, was ultimately adopted.
The Union expects that the alternative decision’s higher capital allocation, combined with the vigorous enforcement of our Union contract, ensures that our employment security remains secure. Unfortunately, some intervenors to PG&E’s GRC proceeding proposed measures that would disallow the recovery costs for some of our benefits. Our focus in this GRC cycle was primarily devoted to the main decision, in particular increasing the capital allocation and increasing the allocation of PG&E Academy funding to the training and testing needs of ESC members. Moreover, cutting employee benefits in the GRC was a surprising and unexpected move by the CPUC, a last-minute decision that had not been made in recent GRC history. When the alternative decision was to be adopted, the Union had a very narrow time frame to oppose a 40% decrease in funding for the STIP bonus program. Despite our vigorous protests, and PG&E’s, this provision was adopted. The Union is exploring potential actions, as this will exert downward pressure on the STIP score in 2024 (payable in 2025).
Take Your Vacation
As the end of the year quickly approaches, it’s time to make the most of your accrued vacation days. Our contract provides that an employee may not have more vacation hours than twice their annual accrual rate in their vacation account as of December 31. Under some limited circumstances, excess vacation hours from the previous year will be paid out at the end of February but the employer is not required to pay them out if members have been told to utilize their vacation balances, were given the opportunity to take vacation, and chose not to do so.
Since many members have accumulated large amounts of accrued vacation time and it can be difficult to make time to take time off while meeting your work responsibilities, the Union advises that you communicate and document any such concerns with your supervisor. The Union also recommends that you communicate with your supervisor regarding the potential of your work impacts during your approved vacation. This practice is even more important if you choose to take a large amount of intermittent vacation to reduce your vacation balance.
If you are unable to take vacation because of extenuating circumstances, which may include an approved leave of absence or operational reasons, please document them. The Union anticipates that claiming paid excess vacation because of operational reasons will be especially challenging. If you plan to do so please contact your Union Representative.
Happy Holidays. I look forward to working with you all to build our collective strength in anticipation of next year’s bargaining campaign.
ESC President, Electric Distribution Engineer