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UCPEA members donate days to sick leave bank
February 9, 1998

As soon as the bargaining teams for the University and the professional employees association, UCPEA, agreed to create a sick leave bank to help seriously ill or injured union members, John Hammond began conserving his vacation days.

"I was one of the bargaining teams' primary proponents for a sick leave bank, and I knew the University was going to match UCPEA's contributions up to 20 days. I wanted to make sure we got the match," recalls Hammond, a 14-year Computer Center employee.

When the day came last month for UCPEA members to contribute unused vacation or holiday time to the new bank, Hammond was ready. He donated 20 days of his vacation to the bank, assuring the University's match.

He didn't have to worry. In what Virginia Miller, assistant vice chancellor for human resources, calls an "extremely impressive outpouring" of concern and compassion for their colleagues, UCPEA members donated nearly 350 days to the bank, to be used as needed by professional staffers who suffer catastrophic illnesses or injuries and use all the sick time they have available, while their recovery is still days, weeks, or months away.

"The numbers are great, excellent," said M. Kevin Fahey, UCPEA's president, when apprised of the total. "It really shows what people can do when they work together. And it highlights the professionalism and unselfishness of UCPEA members."

The bank, the first of its kind at UConn (several classified unions donate time to fellow members but on a case-specific basis), gives UCPEA members two windows of opportunity annually to contribute unused vacation or accrued holiday time, in half-day increments, to a fund that may be drawn on if a member is incapacitated for a lengthy period of time, and runs out of sick time and "as if banked" sick time - unused sick days that, while not accrued, are acknowledged and available for UConn administrators to use to extend sick time to professional employees who may need more than the allotted 15 days they earn in any given calendar year.

Members who need days from the bank may apply for the time to a committee.

The call to open the bank went out during the first pay period in January. The results - more than 148 members contributed 348 days - were heartening. Like Hammond, Edward Lechowicz Jr., the sole worker in the Department of Physiology and Neurobiology's electrical machine shop, donated 20 days. And a member who wishes to remain anonymous contributed a whopping 50 days. About a dozen members donated between four and 12 days.

The bank was created during negotiations for UCPEA's 1997-2000 contract. First broached by UCPEA's negotiating team, the idea was quickly embraced by UConn's bargainers, says Sanner, adding that the Universitystill has a responsibility for providing sick or injured workers with as much paid time off as possible. She and the team acknowledged, however, that there is a limit to what the University can do. And that's where the bank comes into play.

"The ease with which the teams came to agreement on this, and the support it received from UCPEA members, says a great deal about how well we (UCPEA and the administration) work with each other, and the level of contributions shows how much we care about each other. It says wonderful things about UCPEA and about UConn," Miller says.

The sick leave bank is effective immediately.

Richard Veilleux