Despite new COVID-19 testing, PATH workers still angry about ‘clawback’ policy for sick leave

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While the Port Authority agreed to new COVID-19 testing protocols for employees last week, PATH workers are still angry about a “clawback” policy that only allows them 10 paid sick days to recover if they become infected by the virus.

Photo via Twitter.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

The “clawback” policy hitting some PATH workers who were stricken by COVID-19 is  retribution by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey after insisting on coronavirus testing, according to the PATH Labor Coalition – which represents about 1,000 employees on the bistate railway system.

Last week the Port Authority agreed to union demands to provide testing for employees, NJ Advance Media reported.

However, around the same time, labor unions announced that a new Port Authority policy would only allow them 10 paid days off to recover from the coronavirus.

After that, employees would have to use their own sick and vacation days if they take more than ten work days to recover.

In that scenario, it is possible that employees who use up their sick and vacation days won’t be paid at all and some might even see pay deducted from future paychecks.

PATH management made the new policy retroactive to April 17th, catching a number of employees by surprise.

“This new clawback policy is pure retribution and nothing more than a payback from the Port Authority,“ says Joseph Dominiczak, PATH Labor Coalition President.

“They finally give us adequate testing with one hand and bury a knife in our backs with the other. We demand that this heartless and dangerous new policy be rescinded immediately.”

At a press conference last week, Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton said he was unaware of the situation.

“I’m not aware of any change … but we’ll certainly look into it and get back to you,” he said to an inquiring reporter.

Nine PATH engineers who were stricken by the disease and took more than two weeks to recover are now losing their sick and vacation days retroactively, according to Art Blakey: the vice chairman of Local 497.

“This is a terrible way to treat these essential frontline workers, real heroes who put their lives on the line to serve the public. Changing the policy after they got sick is a real cheap shot.”

The new PATH policy is also a danger to riders and the public at large, says Thomas Malone of SMART Tower Operators Local 1430.

“Some employees may have to choose between returning to work too soon and losing money they need to feed their families,” he adds.

“This vengeful, mean-spirited and dangerous decision must be overturned.”

The Port Authority press office did not immediately return an email seeking comment.