Hundreds of Texans who were out of power and unable to work when deadly Storm Uri hit the state last week are now being told by their employers to take missed days as vacation or otherwise lose their pay.
Internal emails and messages perceived by the everyday beast indicate that dozens of employers in Texas have told those unable to find work or work remotely due to power outages to treat the lost days as vacation.
However, those who run out of vacation days to use or those who don’t want to waste their vacation will be forced to go without payment.
The employers in question include several large entities, including Bell Textron Inc., United Ag & Turf, BAE Systems, and even the City of Dallas.
It’s because some residents of the state are also grappling with another crisis: sky-high electricity bills in the region of thousands of dollars, due to soaring wholesale energy prices as millions of power lost.
Hundreds of Texans who were out of power and unable to work when deadly Storm Uri hit the state last week are now being told to take missed days as vacation or otherwise forgo payment
Affected employers include several large entities, including Bell Textron Inc., formerly known as Bell Helicopter
On the basis of anonymity, a Bell Textron employee told the Beast: ‘We are obliged to use vacation on the days of the storm if I had no heating or wifi, or I can forfeit the money and not get paid.
“I am disappointed and nervous about the year ahead,” they said. “Even though I have a salary, I’m a beginner, and any knock on my income will throw me out – and that’s terrifying.”
Bell Textron has not yet returned a request for comment from DailyMail.com, but emails sent by management obtained by the Beast clearly explain the company’s policies.
“ Employees who due to current circumstances are unable to fully devote their time and attention to doing business should use available PTO, vacation or vacation flex time if they want to get paid for today, ” an email sent by last week Bell executives were sent to employees reads.
“Otherwise, employees who have no PTO, vacation, or vacation-flex time left or who don’t want to use their unused PTO, vacation, or vacation-flex time won’t get paid today.”
According to the Bell employee, most of the company’s facilities were closed all week during Storm Uri, and at one point, employees also couldn’t access a VPN that gives them remote access to company systems.
This meant that many Bell employees could not work from home, even though they had electricity.
Similar messages were also sent to employees by management at United Ag & Turf – a John Deere equipment dealer – and BAE Systems – a British security and aerospace company.
United Ag & Turf employees have been advised that they should take responsibility for maintaining a time off work should such a bizarre weather forecast emerge in the near future
Treacherous conditions and icy roads left thousands of Texas unable to get to work in Storm Uri’s wake
Millions of people were also without power, leaving many unable to even work from home (Photo: Vehicles drive down East 7th Street as power outages darken most of East Austin, Texas on Wednesday, Feb. 17)
A BAE employee said they decided to speak up about the company’s policy because they believe it is ‘not right’ and ‘people need to know’.
In a statement, BAE said, “As a government contractor, there are rules we must follow for labor charged by our employees. Last week’s events are unusual and we are working with employees on how to properly deal with each time they were unable to work.
“In addition, we have activated our Immediate Response program to support our colleagues and provide financial assistance to affected employees and their families.”
Meanwhile, United Ag & Turf employees were told to save up days off in case similar weather happened again in the future.
To be prepared for these kinds of conditions in the future, every employee is expected to manage their PTO and is encouraged to always bear a balance for unexpected situations such as health problems and bad weather. This kind of help will not be offered in the future, ” said a message from United Ag & Turf’s executive management. the beast
An employee of the tractor dealer said they were ‘angry’ at the company’s attitude, adding that they could have ‘looked like heroes’ by paying people for days missed, but instead’ chose to make worse. to make’.
Employees at BAE Systems – a UK security and aerospace company – were also told to either take time off or forgo payment
Government employees are also among some of those affected, with a similar letter being sent to the City of Dallas Library Department.
In the message, employees were told that they too must use personal leave to compensate for lost work.
“It is really discouraging that HR (which, by the way, has worked entirely from home for the past year) is allowed to just decide whether or not people get paid,” said a city employee. the beast
City communications representative Catherine Cuellar confirmed the nature of the email, adding that people without paid time can either ‘catch up time within pay period’ or request administrative paid leave.
Cuellar seemed to backtrack on claims that the city’s HR department had “just decided” to potentially cut back on certain employees, adding “we have processes and levels of accountability for tax-paying dollars.”
“So it becomes a question at the federal government level as to whether paying that administrative emergency compensation for employees was a necessary expense during the weather event,” she continued. ‘That has been the city’s policy for the reward of storms for ten years.’
According to Austin-based employment attorney Austin Kaplan, the developments are the result of a lack of employment protection in Texas. He said employers in the state don’t have to pay vacation time at all and there are “no safety nets.”
Such a lack of protection means that employers can decide in their sole discretion how to deal with the consequences of Storm Uri.
Government employees are also among some of those affected, with a similar letter sent to the City of Dallas Library Department (Dallas Public Library shown above)
Another problem Texans face is the prospect of running into sky-high electricity bills, after falling temperatures left millions without power.
The price increase affects people who have chosen to pay wholesale prices for their power, which is generally cheaper than paying flat rates in good weather, but can peak when there is high demand for electricity. Many of those who have reported receiving high bills are customers of electricity supplier Griddy, which operates only in Texas.
Among them is Susan Hosford from Denison, Texas. On a typical February day, she pays Griddy less than $ 2.50 for power. But the costs for one day rose to hundreds of dollars after the storm. In total, she was automatically charged $ 1,346.17 for the first two weeks of February, which was more than she had in her checking account, causing her bank to charge her debit fees and affect other accounts.
“This whole thing has been a nightmare,” she said.
Griddy said it has 29,000 members. It is unclear how many other Texans also pay wholesale prices from other companies.
“We won’t get a full picture of the financial devastation until 30 to 90 days,” said Ed Hirs, an energy officer at the University of Houston.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott said on Sunday that he is working with members of the legislature to tackle skyrocketing energy bills and [find ways that the state can help reduce this burden.’
But he didn’t give specifics on what that may be. For the time being, the state has stopped companies from cutting off power for not paying.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott said Sunday that he is working with members of the legislature to address skyrocketing energy bills and [find ways that the state can help reduce this burden’
Dozens of victims perished in Texas during the storm after freezing to death after losing power
Shortages of food and clean drinking water also affected millions as grocery stores run out of supplies and pipes froze across the state
With the snow and ice now clearing in Texas after days of unusually cold temperatures, bodies are being found of people who likely froze to death as they struggled to stay warm.
Of the around 70 deaths attributed to the snow, ice and frigid temperatures nationwide, more than a dozen were people who perished in homes that had lost their heat, and most of those were in Texas.
President Joe Biden declared a major disaster in the state where 14 million were without water at one point with towns cut off from the electricity grid for seven days.
The move – announced on Saturday – makes federal funding available to individuals across the state, including assistance for temporary housing, home repairs and low-cost loans for losses on uninsured property.
The victims of the crisis include 11-year-old Cristian Pavon, who perished of hypothermia in his family’s mobile home in Conroe, near Houston, a day after he was pictured enjoying the snow – the first he had ever seen in his life.
Among the other dead are a man who reportedly froze to death in his recliner chair with his ‘nearly dead’ wife by his side; three children who perished in a fire as they huddled in a fireplace for warmth; and a mother and daughter died who from carbon monoxide poisoning as they bundled in their car in a garage.
Two older men were also found dead in their homes in the small West Texas town of Buffalo Gap in Taylor County.