Last Sunday, our union bargaining team met with the State to continue negotiations over the impacts of the Governor’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
We met with the assistance of a mediator but were unable to reach an agreement. Unfortunately, the State is not doing enough to assure us that it can maintain a safe working environment after October 18. We are also pushing back on the State’s proposals that jeopardize access to retirement benefits and force leave without pay. In addition, we do not agree with the State's position regarding medical and religious accommodations.
On Monday, the State passed us a proposal they called their “Last Best and Final Proposal”. Combined with statements the State’s representatives made during bargaining, this suggested the State believed it could unilaterally implement proposals that would violate multiple provisions of our current collective bargaining agreement (CBA).
Yesterday, we notified the State’s lead negotiator that we believe the framing of their proposal in this way is unlawful. The State does not have the right to implement its final offer until negotiations are complete, and it most certainly cannot implement anything that violates the current CBA.
The State has now resubmitted its proposal as a “Revised Proposal” and offered to come back to the negotiations table this Sunday with the assistance of the same mediator.
We want to be clear about what that means for you: The Governor’s proclamation will continue to be in effect. That means, if you are able, you must be fully vaccinated by October 18 or you will be prohibited from engaging in work for the DOC.
You will need to get the single-dose J&J vaccine by October 4 as the timeline to become fully vaccinated by the October 18 deadline by any other means has now passed.
For those of you who have requested a medical or religious exemption from the vaccine mandate, the contract requires the Department conduct a reasonable and individualized process to determine if an accommodation is available. We will not agree to any proposal that dilutes those protections, and we will fight any attempt to unilaterally implement such a proposal.
If the State is refusing to accommodate your exemption requests or otherwise threatening your employment, it is important for you to contact your union representative as soon as possible.
Finally, we are requesting each of you turn in your proof of vaccination. We understand that for many this is a difficult ask. Many of you have your own personal reasons for withholding this information from the State; however, it is critical to the negotiations process that we accurately assess staffing levels available after October 18. The State is providing the Union with information about how many of you are vaccinated as part of the negotiations. If we do not have this information, we cannot make proposals necessary to keep people working at the facilities safe.
Staff safety is always our top priority, and we must be able to evaluate the State’s contingency plans. Please provide your vaccination status as soon as you are able.
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