MLive: Marick Masters on work requirements for BCBS union employees

Blue Cross Blue Shield sent almost all of its nonunion employees home at the start of the pandemic and they’ve been working remotely ever since. But the company’s 1,500 unionized employees haven’t been so lucky – while they were home for a couple days last March, they’ve been forced to work from the office ever since, according to the UAW local that represents Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan employees. The situation raises red flags for Marick Masters, a business professor at Wayne State University and expert in unions and labor relations. “There’s no need for people to have to be sitting in a call center at a central location in order to perform the work,” Masters said. Custodial workers and facilities maintenance employees obviously can’t work from home, Masters said. But when two people are doing the same job – and one can work from home and the other can’t – that’s a problem, he said. Unions have had a lot of power during the pandemic, Masters said, as they interpret how COVID-19 rules fit into union contracts. If the union feels the contract is violated, it can file grievances and force the debate into arbitration. Having MIOSHA side with the employees instead of the company is a big step forward, Masters said. “This is going to create discord and disharmony in the workforce and that’s all bad for the environment that people work in,” Masters said. “It’s also bad for the reputation of the company – particularly a company involved in health care.”

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