Monday, September 21, 2020

UPR blamed for allegedly mismanaging Covid-19 case

By on August 31, 2020

(CB file photo)

Union demands testing, contact tracing and changes to safety protocols

SAN JUAN – The University of Puerto Rico’s Sindicato de Trabajadores (STUPR), a workers’ union that represents non-administrative and non-teaching workers at the university, sent a bulletin Sunday asking its members to not show up to work Monday.

The move sought to pressure de university’s administration to look into a possible Covid-19 case from a recently deceased worker and for administrators to meet with their Health and Safety Committee to make changes to the institution’s related protocols.

In reaction to the union’s call for workers to be absent, the administration of the UPR Medical Sciences Campus (RCM by its Spanish initials) suspended most in-person activities, with the exception of researchers and personnel assigned to feed lab animals. The decision was announced in a letter emailed to the RCM university community and signed by RCM Chancellor Segundo Rodríguez Quilichini.

However, Rodríguez Quilichini, who also presides over the governor’s Medical Task Force on Covid-19, didn’t validate the union’s claim and said the decision was because the union workers are the ones tasked with cleaning and maintenance of the campus.

“We are committed to the health and safety of our employees and students; therefore, providing a safe work and study area is priority, especially when we face daily the fight against Covid-19,” the letter reads.

The STUPR’s bulletin came after the death of an employee that the union is arguing showed symptoms typical of a Covid-19 diagnosis but was not removed from work. The employee was supposed to report to the Botanical Garden Experimental Agricultural Station (EEA by its Spanish acronym) at Río Piedras but because he worked as a messenger, he traveled to all of the EEAs, according to the union’s bulletin.

“It is unacceptable; the gross negligence of the university administration has come to take the place of rigorous practice that the health and safety rules and regulations imposed by the federal and state governments to guarantee the health and life of our own [workers],” the union notification reads.

The bulletin also alleges that some chancellors have “refused” to meet with the respective Health and Safety committees of each campus and are demanding that university officials meet with said committee to discuss and amend the health and safety protocol of the campuses. The STUPR is also asking for molecular, or diagnostic, Covid-19 testing for employees and contact tracing to determine whether workers came in contact with the recently deceased employee.

“The life of our [members] has incalculable value; it cannot be measured in terms of 5 or 7.5 hours of work. The lives of our people will be defended to the last consequences. Make no mistake about it,” the bulletin reads.

Requests for comment were left with the university administration.