Catastrophic Leave Sharing

Archived Q&A and Reviews

From: Ginger Ogle
Date: Feb 1999

Catastrophic leave sharing has finally been reinstated effective Feb 5 for clerical employees on our campus. This is the campus policy that allows one employee to donate his/her unused vacation leave to another employee in need. It is especially meaningful for parents with sick children and for women who don't have enough leave to stay home for a long enough time after the birth of a child. The web page is here:

This humanitarian policy, which costs the University practically nothing, was withheld from campus clerical employees during negotiations between the University and the Clerical worker's union (CUE). As far as I can tell, each side blames the other for using the leave sharing policy as a bargaining chip. No matter who is to blame, or which side we are on, we cannot be proud of the people who represent us when they inflict suffering on the campus employees who can least afford it in order to gain some advantage in a dispute. This is morally and ethically wrong in my view.

I complained to Labor Relations when I heard about this. I said that as a manager I do not wish to be associated with practices that I feel are so obviously unconscionable, and that I am ashamed that this was done on my behalf. As a parent, I know there are parents on campus who needed the leave donations that were offered by colleagues, but weren't permitted to accept them. I'm very sorry that these parents had this additional hardship during an already difficult time. I am happy that leave sharing has been reinstated and I intend to express my satisfaction to my representatives. I hope you will express your views to those who represent you.

From: Jane (2/99)

Ginger, thank you for speaking out about the Catastropic Leave policy. I am one of the people who was directly affected by the Catastrophic Leave Sharing Policy being denied clerical workers during contract negotiations. Two people in my department offered to donate 40 hours each to me upon the birth of my daughter. I just came back to work on January 5th and found out that the policy has finally been approved system-wide. I was delighted! I called to see if the donations could be made to me retroative= , but was told no.

This has been a very big issue for me. I worked hard with the union and one of my co-workers to fight the decision to deny me (and others in need) the donation, even though Catastrophic Leave was not being contested and other campuses, like UCLA were approving these donations during negotiation= s. Many of you may have seen my picture and name in union publications!

I stayed home with my new baby for 4 months and paid for 3 of them out of my own pocket, plus an additional $400 for medical insurance when Family, Medical Leave ran out. This unpaid leave has been a real hardship. Ironically, if I had stayed home one more month, I would have been eligible for the donations and spent another month with my baby!

I and one of my coworkers plan to write Chancellor Berndhal to contest the decision to deny me the donations retroactive. For a campus that says it's family friendly, I am not feeling very supported and hope that noone else has been put in this unfortunate position.

From: John (2/99)

Ginger, thanks for your sympathies. I only want to make two things clear:

Barring clericals from participation in the Catastrophic Leave Sharing Program was Labor Relations' decision. In June 1998, shortly after the clerical union decided not to extend the existing contract (which contained no language about any kind of leave-sharing program), Labor Relations decided that since the CLSP had evolved from pilot status to non-pilot status, it was a new program, and therefore clericals must bargain for the right to participate in it. Labor Relations claimed then, and claims now, that this decision was mandated by the Higher Education Employee Relations Act.

During the seven months when clerical participation in CLSP was under negotiation, the clerical union granted individual waivers, to allow clericals to participate in the program on a per-person exceptional basis, for every campus that asked, in every case. The only campuses that didn't ask were Irvine and Berkeley. I too am ashamed of our Labor Relations people.

From: a parent (2/99)

I am a long time subscriber to this list and a member of the CUE (clerical) bargaining team representing UC Berkeley clericals in systemwide contract negotiations. For the record: CUE offered to accept to UC's catastrophic leave sharing policy from the begining (early last fall). First the University tied catastrophic leave to parking -- they said clericals could have access to the program if we would agree to give up our right to bargain over increased parking fees and changes in the parking program. CUE felt this was cynical move on the part of UC and one we could not accept. Then the Univresity decoupled parking and catastrophic leave. In the meantime it had come to our attention that some campuses offered programs that did not include all employees and some campuses did not have leave sharing programs at all. We proposed to UC that we could accept the program with a promise that at some time in the future (at a date certain) all staff would be included in the programs and all campuses would offer some kind of a leave sharing option. At first UC refused and in the end they agreed. The programs in place are now available to clericals as well as other staff and by February 2000 there will be programs available to all staff on all campuses.

From: a mom (2/99)

Thanks very much for your note about the leave sharing program. As you're very interested, I thought I'd better let you know something I discovered about the leave sharing policy when someone in our unit tried to transfer leave to someone in another department. It was quite a muddle (partly bc the policy had been in effect, but was cancelled during our process, plus other mistakes were made as the procedure was quite new) so I'll try to explain the pertinent point simply:
The thing is, I think most people are assuming that the transfer is simply of vacation time, when in fact actual cash money has to be transferred between departments. Most departments (ours, certainly) cannot afford this at all. Within one department I think it's a beautiful thing (& very necessary) but I'm afraid it's an empty policy otherwise & department heads are going to end up having to be the bad guys.

This is really just my opinion, I don't know that much about it, & I'm not sure what the status of the whole thing is now. I'd love some straight information from on high about this, if it's as big an issue as I suspect. It was impossible to get clear answers last summer from the folks who were involved with writing the policy (my questions were is this for real? and why does it work this way? and I couldn't find a single soul to answer.)

I should say that I work for extremely humanitarian very GOOD people, but my understanding right now is that they would simply not be able to afford to let me donate my leave to anyone in another department (assuming I ever had enough to donate!).

Believe me, the sub-department in our unit did not have the money to cover what happened, and they were mighty surprised to see it had come out of regular PAYROLL, i.e. sub-1. That sort of thing (in the thousands of dollars) is simply not in the budget. The key I think is that when you use your leave by taking vacation time, the money you are being paid is not EXTRA money, rather you are simply being paid as usual. You are just using up your TIME, which is not connected with actual money as long as you are still at the University. I think ours is charged against sub-6 on our ledger, but it does not equal cash against our department. There are only a bunch of zeros to the right of the debit. I've not been trained to read ledgers, & it's not part of my job, so this is all kind of iffy info. I am under the impression, however, that the only time you might cause your department a problem financially (and I'm told it can be very difficult budget-wise) is if you leave the University and need to be paid out your vacation (esp. of you have a lot of it!) as vacation is technically equivalent to cash. That is precisely why vacation hours are capped off at a certain point, as it is really a liability to the departments/University. Once your vacation hits a certain number (something most parents of small children know nothing about...) you begin to actually lose it. Departments do NOT just have the money sitting around waiting for you, as it's only paid out when you totally leave the University. Here's the crux: if you leave one department & transfer to another, you take your accrued vacation & sick time with you, but I think it goes under sub-6 and definitely NOT in the form of cash. (This is of course much better for your first department than if you left the U. altogether.) Here's the question, it seems to me: Why, if you transfer between departments, does your vacation & sick time transfer under sub-6 (or whatever) as TIME and not in the form of cash, but when you want to donate vacation time to someone in another department, it must be turned into an equivalent amount of money & travel over as CASH, & then get recalculated at the recipient's rate? I can understand the calculating problem, as not everyone's vacation hours are worth the same amount, but why send it as actual cash money? What's the difference between transferring & leave sharing? I don't see it. In fact (cynical as I am) the difference could be that they (who?) don't want people to actually USE the benefit too much, and they don't want to take the blame for saying no. And/or they want a big, mostly empty, chip to play in union negotiations. OR, it was just a lack of forsight, which is perfectly possible. If you get any deeper into this, and especially if you find I'm completely off-base, would you let me know?