Date: September 15, 2021
Re: COVID-19 UPDATE
On April 19th, I wrote to you all to provide an update regarding COVID-19 Sick pay. I had great hopes that the situation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic would continue to improve. However, that has not been the case and Texas hospitals ICUs have seen overflowing at near record levels. The new Delta Variant has recently caused a considerable spike in our number of COVID cases both ashore and in the fleet. Currently, September is trending towards our highest case month to date, resulting in having to operate several tugs shorthanded with three person crews due to symptomatic or close contact cases. While I remain optimistic that we might see a turning of this rise, the strains on crewing continue to challenge us.
I am thankful that many of you have taken the opportunity to protect yourselves, family members, and teammates by taking advantage of the free vaccines currently available for COVID-19, and daily I hear of others electing to do so. The Seafarers International Union also provided a free Vaccine Drive, which some mariners and shoreside staff elected to go to. I believe the overall employee base vaccination rate remains relatively low, which may increase our exposure and cases predominately with unvaccinated personnel. Important to note, is that most cases emanate from off-work activities and then are brought to the workplace. I simply ask that each of you, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, be vigilant regarding symptoms and act responsibly for the betterment of all of our employees.
In the last memo we informed you that the G&H 7 days paid sick leave would expire on May 31, 2021. The company had agreed to voluntarily continue to offer sick pay under the terms and conditions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) through September 30, 2021, as authorized by the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 and the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021.
At the time of this writing, all these plans (FFCRA and ARPA) will be expiring on September 30, 2021. After that date, your options if you get COVID-19 will be to; use your accumulated sick leave, take paid vacation time
(if applicable) or go without pay while you are recuperating or quarantined. While I would anticipate the President of the United States to extend these benefits, there has yet to be an announcement affirming this decision.
I encourage you all to avail yourself of the opportunity to get vaccinated, if you are comfortable with that choice. Regardless of your choice to vaccinate or not, we must all do our part to continue to maintain social distancing, continue to conduct screenings at crew change, to practice good hygiene and to wear a mask when inside the tugs as required by U. S. Coast Guard regulations and at all G&H facilities to help prevent the spread.
I have attached the most current version of the Marine Personnel – Request for COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave and Emergency Family and Medical Leave form. After September 30, 2021, marine personnel will only have the use of their accrued Non-Occupational Illness and Injury Benefits per the Office/Ratings Agreements (Appendix C-Harbor Section 16).
Please help us preserve a safe and healthy work environment for all by doing your part in maintaining your health and the health and safety environment around you.
Sincerely, Dave Hill
President – G&H Towing