Late last week, the SEC’s Office of Human Resources (OHR) informed the union that the agency had decided not to fund the Backup Child and Elder Care Program at the level needed to continue to provide the amount of care promised to employees. As a consequence, since at least December 9th, all SEC employees have been turned away with respect to any backup care that they have requested during the month of December. The union has filed a national grievance for failure to negotiate a change to the program before implementing that change.
The Backup Child and Elder Care Program is an important benefit that is relied upon from time to time by many SEC employees. Under this program, the SEC has made arrangements with Bright Horizons Family Solutions to provide center-based and in-home backup child and elder care services. Regardless of the type of care received, employees have been permitted to use the program up to 20 times per child or elder, per calendar year. Employees can make reservations with Bright Horizons up to 30 days in advance.
In the past, SEC employees seeking backup child or elder care have been turned away from time to time, but this has always been due to space availability in a center on a given day. The SEC has never simply shut the program off for all SEC employees.
The union has sought and obtained information about the use of the Backup Child and Elder Care Program from the SEC. While we have not yet obtained all the information we have requested, we have been able to determine that very few SEC bargaining unit employees ever hit the annual limit of 20 visits per child or elder. In addition, the data appear to show that a significant number of SEC management employees use this benefit at a high annual rate.
Pursuant to the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the SEC and the union, the SEC is required to continue to provide these services, and any change to the Backup Child and Elder Care Program is required to be negotiated with the union. The SEC did not negotiate this recent change with the union and is thus violating the CBA and federal labor law. For that reason, the union filed a national grievance.
The union believes that it is unfortunate that the SEC has decided to cut off this benefit in December, because it is one of the highest usage months for backup child and elder care during the year, due to the holidays. The SEC has added almost a thousand new employees in the past couple of years and, as a result, the cost for this program may have increased. However, many of these new employees are younger professionals with young families, and they were sold on SEC employment in part because of its superior benefits. For that reason, the SEC should negotiate with the union as it is required to do before making such a draconian unilateral cut to one of the benefits programs it has used to promote hiring.