The Communications Workers of America union has filed an unfair labor practice complaint against federal technology provider Maximus relating to the company’s operation of call centers on behalf of the Department of Health and Human Services.
In a complaint filed with the National Labor Relations Board, the union has brought five allegations against the company, including that it violated the National Labor Relations Act by making implied promises of benefits to employees to interfere with union activity, and discharging employees in retaliation for union organizing.
CWA alleges also in the complaint that the company forced employees to attend a meeting during which they were urged to reject union representation, threatened employees with layoffs in relation for union organizing and offered employees severance agreements that proscribed certain employee rights.
The union said it brought charges after Maximus earlier this month laid off more than 700 employees at the call centers, which represented the second round of staff reductions to take place this year. The workers impacted by the layoffs were customer service representatives who support Obamacare and Medicare calls and who answer questions for the CDC-INFO line, according to CWA.
Speaking with FedScoop at a protest organized by CWA outside the HHS building as the labor on Thursday, five Maximus employees said hundreds of employees are expected to be laid off this month based in part on unionization drives which the company opposes, unexpected and unfair schedule changes, as well as tech system failures. FedScoop spoke with Daija Arrington, Keaira Mark, Jadaisha Mark, Audrianna Lewis and Terry Beecham.
Arrington told FedScoop she believed layoffs at the company were based in part on unionization drives. The employee has worked handling calls for the CDC for three years, and told this publication that she had an excellent performance record.
Arrington said: “I was [told about being] laid off two days before Mothers Day, along with 700 of my co-workers, despite my great performance record with no discipline.” She added: “I believe the real reason I was laid off was in retaliation for speaking out about Maximus’ working conditions, and to scare my co-workers from supporting a union. But we have a right to speak out and tell the truth, and to organize to improve our working conditions. That’s why we’re calling on HHS to hold Maximus accountable for mistreating workers, help us keep our jobs, and make sure we’re paid the fair wages we deserve.”
In a statement, Maximus spokesperson Eileen Cassidy Rivera said that while the allegations had only just been made available to the company, it was confident it had complied with all applicable labor requirements.
She said: “Given the lack of specific detail, including dates of alleged occurrence and names of workers, we are unable to respond directly to the allegations. We pride ourselves in complying with applicable labor laws across all our operations and will cooperate fully with any request from the National Labor Relations Board.”
Maximus operates Department of Health and Human Services call centers under contracts with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Centers for Disease Control.
Speaking at the Maximus protest outside the HHS building, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-MS., said: “I was appalled to learn that Maximus has announced layoffs affecting more than 700 call center workers who work under contracts with HHS.”
He added: “This includes many workers who have been active union supporters and who have been brave enough to come forward and share their experiences about racial inequity at the company. Maximus workers deserve to be rewarded for their hard work, not treated like they’re disposable and they don’t matter. It is imperative that HHS ensures that Maximus provides good jobs with living wages, and workers don’t have to face unfair and unnecessary layoffs.”