After New Flyer failed to heed workers’ frustrations with the company’s COVID-19 response, JMA sent a letter ahead of a shareholder meeting on May 7.
NEW YORK, May 6, 2020 – As the coronavirus pandemic continues to evolve, and thousands of U.S. workers at New Flyer Industries prepare to return to work this month, Jobs to Move America sent a letter to Brian V. Tobin, Chairperson of the Board of Directors at NFI asking the company to adopt specific measures to safeguard their workforce and mitigate the impact of the production shutdown on the company’s workers. New Flyer is the largest bus manufacturer in North America with factories in Alabama, California, Kentucky, Minnesota, and New York employing over 6,000 workers.
The letter was sent ahead of the company’s shareholder meeting set for May 7.
On May 5, Tobin responded to JMA’s letter. He referred to a “Safe Return to Work Protocol” published by NFI on May 4. In that document, NFI adopted some of JMA’s demands, such as providing masks to all production and technical employees, and ignored others, such as the demands for hazard pay, three months of health insurance for all employees who are permanently laid off, and more paid sick leave and family leave for employees who must miss work for coronavirus-related reasons. Tobin also rejected JMA’s request that New Flyer negotiate a Community Benefits Agreement with workers and community groups.
Over the past month, workers have publicly expressed frustration with New Flyer’s inadequate response to COVID-19. The New York Post reported that New Flyer technicians were sent to bus depots where there had been infected employees — without warning from management or any protective equipment. Tobin broadly attacked the New York Post article in his letter, without responding to the specific charges.
In the U.S. NFI Group operates 21 facilities, six for manufacturing and 15 for parts and services, and employs thousands of workers. On March 30, the company halted production at its manufacturing facilities, a halt that was then extended until May 2020, and furloughed 8,000 worldwide and permanently laid off more than 300 of its manufacturing employees.
The letter expressed concern that New Flyer has not honored a March 30 commitment that all work during the production halt be voluntary, and has rejected a demand from the Communications Workers of America District 7, the union that represents New Flyer workers in Minnesota to provide hazard pay for workers during the pandemic.
The letter also expressed concern that New Flyer may not be paying employees who, due to COVID-19 are sick or quarantined; are caring for sick family members; are caring for children whose school or daycare is closed or have been laid off or furloughed due to COVID-19.
Some of the recommendations in the letter include:
- Offering all employees affordable health insurance and paying at least three months of health insurance premiums for any laid off employees at all its U.S. facilities, as New Flyer has done for workers represented by the Communications Workers of America in Minnesota.
- Provide their workforce with paid sick leave to permit workers with COVID-19 symptoms to self-quarantine and provide family leave options to care for family members.
- Maintaining their workforce to ensure that well-trained and committed employees are available to resume operations once the COVID-19 crisis is resolved. To the extent layoffs are economically necessary, companies should offer severance pay and recall rights to former employees.
- Require at least six feet of distancing and provide adequate personal protective equipment to all employees.
- Halt share buybacks and dividends to preserve cash and to limit executive and senior management compensation.
- To show that they are taking their corporate social responsibility more seriously, NFI needs to come to the table and negotiate a real Community Benefits agreement to ensure workers have a say in their future.
The full letter can be found here.
“We all deserve to know that publicly traded companies like NFI Group, — a company that does 70 percent of its business through public contracts — act responsibly by prioritizing the safety and well-being of workers and the communities in which they operate. The only real way for NFI Group to show their company is serious about worker health and safety is to come to the table to negotiate a Community Benefits Agreement,” said Madeline Janis, executive director of Jobs to Move America.
“We have been disappointed by New Flyer’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. They have not honored a commitment made to the employees and members of CWA. We hope all NFI Group stakeholders understand how vital it is for the health, safety, and well-being of New Flyer’s hard-working manufacturing workers to come first,” said Brenda Roberts, vice president of CWA District 7.
About Jobs To Move America (jobstomoveamerica.org)
Jobs to Move America is a strategic policy center that works to transform public spending and corporate behavior using a comprehensive approach that is rooted in racial and economic justice and community organizing. We seek to advance a fair and prosperous economy with good jobs and healthier communities for all.