COLUMBIA, S.C. — A group of upset union members protested outside of the VA Hospital Saturday in Columbia, citing one of their concerns as a lack of PPE.
Workplace safety has been a key issue in the fight against COVID19. Lack of personal protective gear, working from home and other issues are causing problems across the state.
Members of the American Federation of Government Employees or AFGE rallied outside of the Columbia VA Hospital Saturday morning.
“To bring awareness to the fact that there is not enough Personal protective equipment within the VA," David Mollet, VP of the South East region of the union told News19, "Not only this VA but the VA nationwide.”
Mollet continues, “Our concerns are with the protection of the employees, the veterans as well as the community.”
Columbia Chapter President Raymond Mitchell says he can barely get in contact with the hospital to talk over the unions concerns, “Let’s sit down and really do some bargaining on all of these issues. Don’t have us wait until everything is done and employees impacted..”
Other concerns members want addressed are lack of hazard duty pay, no paid emergency leave, refusing to let eligible employees telework and the lack of testing employees for possible exposure.
However, CEO and Director of the Columbia VA David Omura says that they are addressing employees concerns of PPE and other issues daily through messages to staff throughout the week.
“We work to make sure that anyone that has questions has access to us 24 hours a day. At this point in time we have no issues with PPE and do not see issues in the near future," Omura says.
He also told News19 that he is in communication with the local AFGE chapter about all of the COVID19 information.
Omura insists that the Columbia VA hospital is taking all of the necessary steps to ensure the safety and protection of their staff and patients. He hopes to be able to be able to continue talks with these employees.