Vax Mandate Update 9/29

Updated 10/1

Unpaid Leave Enforcement: the Governor announced that he has directed executive branch state agency heads to prepare for their employees to be placed on unpaid leave starting next week due to non-compliance with executive orders requiring COVID-19 vaccination or testing. State employees have until 11:59 p.m. on Monday, October 4, 2021, to provide proof of vaccination or compliance with weekly testing requirements. State agencies will begin to place non-complaint employees on unpaid leave as soon as Tuesday, October 5, but no later than Monday, October 11. See Governor's press release

Vaccine Mandate: the Governor announced today that the vax/testing compliance date has been pushed to Monday, October 4th.  We also recognize that thousands of non-compliance letters/emails were sent out to employees today.  In many instances these notifications were sent erroneous.  If this is your situation, please maintain records indicating your compliance in the event that adverse action is taken against you.  While the enforcement of non-compliance has been temporarily stalled, we anticipate that the State will rigidly enforce the Executive Order soon, so ensure that you bring yourself into compliance if you have not done so already.

No-Cost Testing Sites:  The State has now agreed to cover the cost of at least the first 4 tests if not done at a "no-cost" testing center.  We are continually told the "no-cost" testing centers are free. However we have not been able to verify this yet.  The "no cost" testing centers can be found on www.211ct.org

  1. From this splash page, select "View Testing Sites",
  2. Then select "Search All Connecticut"
  3. Then click on the yellow button which reads "Show Advanced Filters"
  4. Select "No-Cost To Customer"
  5. Then select the yellow button which reads "Apply Filters to Current Results"...this will give you the sites deemed to be free to all.

Just as an FYI: the legislature has granted approval to continue the executive authority of the Governor through February 15, 2022.  As such, the Governor has released EO14 which extends EO13G (the Vaccine Mandate affecting A&R state employees).

Telework: Reminder, the next phase of the Transitional Telework Agreement begins October 3rd.  Telework requests covering the period of October 3rd thru December 31 need to be submitted via the Telework portal if you wish to continue teleworking.  We want to remind everyone that if your prefered Telework schedule is not listed on the form, please utilize Item "12 Other" to identify your desired schedule.  You could also indicate in Item "12 Other" COVID-fragile if you are making a claim for a COVID-fragile circumstance.  COVID-fragile documentation should be sent to Human Resources.  For this phase of the Transitional Telework Agreement, individual denials over 50% Telework are not subject to the appeal process.  However, in the event an agency or unit institutes a blanket policy of denials over 50%, this would be subject to appeal.  We are pursuing such appeals at handful of agencies, ironically including OPM which is the agency that oversees the agreement.  We will keep you posted as this unfolds and update any labor actions undertaken relating to this agreement.

If you do not receive a response to your Telework Request, we recommend that you continue your current schedule.

 

Vax Mandate Update

Where we are on the Vax Mandate:

We finally have some progress to report on the vaccince mandate negotiations.  While some issues remain unsresolved and may require arbitration, agreement was reached on several fundamental issues.  This document, signed by the State and SEBAC, summarizes the positions of the parties on a range of issues.  The main take-aways from this document:

  • Employees have the ability to submit vaccination proof and/or test results via fax (860 678 5207) or via email, in addition to the Wellspark "App" (Statecovid@wellsparkhealth.com).
  • Home-tests are not acceptable. Tests must be performed and reported by a healthcare provider.
  • Those who receive their first injection in a two-dose vaccine regimen but fail to timely receive their second injection within three days of the recommended date shall be subject to weekly testing, pending receipt of their second dosage.
  • Testing can be at no cost to the employee if done at one of the "State Sponsored Testing" sites, a listing of which can be found at www.211ct.org
  • For employees who test at other than "State Sponsored Testing" sites, their first 4 tests will be covered by the State health insurance plan.

The remainder of the document lists off the items that are still being contested:

  • Whether testing should be on the employer's time and at the employer's expense (currently, leave accruals can be used to cover work time lost to get tested during the workday)
  • Whether testing should be required prior to a vacation or while on leave (currently, testing must be done weekly regardless of the situation)
  • The exact consequences, including unpaid leave and/or separation from state service for non-compliance (currently, 15 days unpaid then separation in good standing which means you can re-apply for a State position when you are in compliance with the vaccine requirement).
  • Whether time lost due to side effects from the vaccine should count against sick time accruals (currently, any vax side effects would require the use of sick time).
  • Whether time lost by unvaccinated people due to quarantine for a positive test result should be covered leave time in addition to the 14 day LOPD allotment (currently, a positive test would grant any remaining LOPD time then use of sick time would be required).

Lastly, it appears that for those who select testing and will be out for vacation or medical leave will not need to test until prior to their return (this is unclear at this time, but was presented as a clarification).

Vax Mandate Update

The SEBAC unions met with the Governor's Office regarding the Vaccine Mandate (which has now been updated from Executive Order 13D to 13G).  The State is really looking to push the vaccine on anyone who is thusfar resistant to taking it.  As such, the State is still insisting that those who opt to "test weekly" will do so on their own time and their own dime.  The State continues to refuse to cover the cost of the test (generally about $140 per test) and will not grant any compensation for the time it takes to get tested.  Generally speaking, a COVID test is free if it is medically necessary, however, it may not be covered by insurance if it is for the purposes of meeting an employer mandate.  Since we cannot agree with these conditions, we will most likely bring these issues of time and cost to an arbitrator.  Our first priority is to ensure workplace safety during this pandemic, however, we are committed to ensuring that all employees workplace rights are supported and defended as well.

So here is where we are now, we will start simple:

Those who are Vaccinated:

Those who are vaccinated must submit a copy of their vax card via the COVID Navigator app, or via fax (860 678-5207 or 860 678-5229) or via email at Statecovid@wellsparkhealth.com.

Anyone who submits proof of vaccination will get 1hr of comp time for each shot taken.  Those who previously submitted proof of vaccination do not need to re-submit, but we suggest you do so anyway.

Those who are Unvaccinated:

For A&R members who do not work at long-term care/health facilities, you can opt for weekly testing rather than get vaccinated.  You do NOT need a Medical/Religious Exemption; you can simply opt for testing.  However, at this time, we do not have an agreement that the testing will be done on State time nor on the State's dime.  We are pursuing this further, but the State's position remains unchanged on these issues.  Most employees will likely test at a CVS or Walgreens as they are wide-spread throughout the State, but it is unclear whether there will be a cost to the employee if tested at these sites. There are several locations that may provide free testing for all, check www.211ct.org for these locations.

Test results typically take a couple of days, so give yourself enough time to receive your results and submit them prior to the 9/27/21 implementation date.  Again, test results can be submitted via the COVID Navigator app, or via fax (860 678-5207 or 860 678-5229) or via email at Statecovid@wellsparkhealth.com.

Testing is typically done through a nasal swab, however, it is possible that a saliva test may be accepted.  Be aware that home-tests are NOT acceptable at this time.  Further, if you have recently had COVID-19, you will need to have the antigen test, not the PCR test.

Those who are in the process of getting vaccinated will need to test weekly until full vaccination status is attained. 

Those who do not submit test results will be given 3 days grace-period, beyond that, the employee will be placed on unpaid leave status for up to 15 days.  After 15 days, if the employee remains out of compliance with the Executive Order, they will be separated from State service.  Failure to comply by providing proof of vaccination or weekly testing will result in separation in accordance with the Executive Order.  We recognize this is unsettling news, but be assured that we will continue to pursue what is necessary to protect the interests of all our members and their workplace rights.

-9/20/21

Quite a bit of heavy stuff happenin'

We will start easy...

Pandemic Picnic: A reminder for those who signed up for the A&R picnic on Friday 9/3...if you wear your RedSox gear or A&R gear AND can make the 9/8 Red Sox v Rays game at Fenway, we will enter you into a raffle to win free tickets (the bus is available to you but if you wish to provide your own transportation that is fine too).  Also, we will have an area for people to "hang-out" if they wish, but please bring your own seating.

Vax Mandate: While there are several vaccination mandates that we are facing (Exec Order 13B [long-term care facilities], Exec Order 13D [all state employees], UConn mandate, BOR Mandate, etc... the primary mandate is Executive Order 13D.  It is possible that some A&R folks may fall under the guidance of some other "vax mandate" depending on their work location/job duties, but primarily, we are impacted by EO 13D.   The gist of EO 13D is that by September 27, 2021, all State Employees need to show proof of vaccination, absent the ability/willingness to verify vaccination, the employee will need to comply with weekly testing.  It is the testing details that we do not have clarity on as of yet and we will be bargaining with the State on this issue next week.  The two main components around testing are: who pays for the testing and is it done on the employers/employees time.  Obviously there are detail questions as well, such as how would testing compliance be relayed to the agency, are test results or simple verification of taking the test, etc.  There are also questions about religious/medical exemptions.  Right now, we do not expect most A&R employees will have to pursue a religious/medical exemption; simply test if you are not vaccinated.  There are some facilities where an exemption will be required for continued employment, especially if you work in a facility which is covered by an additional (stricter) vax mandate which only allows testing for those who can justify an exemption on religious/medical grounds. Right now, there is no established form for a religious exemption, but again, we don't expect most unvaccintated A&R employees will not need to pursue this. What we do know is that failure to comply or falsification of compliance with either testing or vaccination will result in serious discipline.  There will be discussions next week and we will update you if there is progress on the details of how the mandate will be implemented.

Telework: The current Telework Transitional Agreement is still in the first phase but will be switching to the second phase on October 2.  The second phase runs thru December 31, 2021 and will automatically grant 50% or less Telework (for those who can currently be accomodated at that level).  However, requests over 50% will be based on a review of the duties and operational needs on an individual-by-individual basis.  Requests over 50% cannot be appealed unless an agency or unit makes a blanket determination which ignores individual review.  Some agencies are pro-actively seeking employee requests for post-October 2 Telework schedules now and we expect more agencies to begin doing this soon.  We will be negotiating a final Telework agreement over the next few months with the expectation that this will be our "forever" agreement and hopefully it will be in place by January 2022.

Local Office Candidates:  A&R is again looking to support our members who run for positions in local government whether it is for Town Council, Board of Ed, Zoning, Finance, or whatever.  If you are a candidate for local office this year and would like to seek A&R support/endorsement, please complete our quick Endorsement form and submit it to arcope@andr.org for review by the A&R COPE committee.  We have two separate forms this year, one form is for A&R Members seeking our endorsement and the other form is for non-A&R members seeking endorsement.  In either case, if you submit the form by the September 22 deadline, the COPE committee will be meeting immediately afterwards to review and determine endorsement.  Any submissions after this date will be held until our October meeting.

Endorsement Form for A&R Members

Endorsement Form for non-A&R Members

A&R Contract Negotiations: We continue to engage with the State for a successor agreement.  Negotiations have been cordial and have been progressing smoothly with the exception of the financial package.  While we continue to remain engaged and fully comprehend that a settled contract is far more appealing than an arbitrated contract, we are also nearing our limit on patience.  Our contract did not sneak up on the administration (virtually all contracts expired at the same time this year so this wasn't a surprise), why the Governor/OPM doesn't have a sensible wage offer ready after a year of negotiations and a completed balanced State budget is mind-boggling.  We aren't at the point of filing for arbitration just yet, but we don't have the patience to hear any more horrific/comical wage offers from Lamont and we will need to do what is necessary.

Social Events:  We still have a few Red Sox tix for the 9/8 game at Fenway (take the bus or travel on your own.  We also have locked in the  Radio City Music Hall on November 6 and DoYourOwnThing in NYC on December 4th.  Remember, all buses now leave from the A&R Office parking lot.

Stewards Needed: The role of an A&R steward combines the skills of an advocate, educator, and organizer.   Union stewards advocate for their colleagues in the workplace, making sure all employees receive fair, appropriate and respectful treatment in all aspects of their work.  Stewards also educate fellow members about important notices and contract updates, while making sure managers are educated about employee rights.  Stewards also organize individuals into a vocal, active union that can advocate for necessary change and improvements to the state workplace.

A&R expects numerous steward vacancies due to retirements over the next year, and we need the next generation of union stewards to step forward.  Applicants should send a: (1) cover letter; (2) a résumé; and (3) the names and phone numbers of two A&R members in the applicant’s agency to serve as character references. Please apply by September 17th for consideration this year.

Please send your application either by email to plamb@andr.org or by mail, attention Patrick Lamb, Chief Steward at A&R, 805 Brook Street, Rocky Hill, CT  06067

~9/2/21

Mandatory Vaccination Goes Into Effect

Thursday August 19, Governor Lamont signed Executive Order 13d which requires that all State Employees be vaccinated by September 27.

The Executive Order has several stages to it:

First and foremost is the vaccination aspect by which all employees either:

  1. be fully vaccinated by 9/27/21
  2. have one dose administered by 9/27/21 AND have a 2nd dose scheduled
  3. apply for a medical or religious/spiritual exemption.  These exemption requests will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis and include supporting documentation.  In the case of a medical exemption, this would require a determination from an MD, a PA, or an APRN.

Second, each State Agency shall create a policy which requires employees to either show proof of vaccination or submit to weekly COVID testing.  Agencies are also required to validate and maintain records of the vaccination status of employees (including maintaining records of those who obtain exemptions).

Third, vaccinated individuals must show proof of vaccination status by showing their vaccination card, a photo of the card, Immunization Records, or other health care records validating their vaccination status.  It is explicitly stated that self-attestation is not acceptable.

Fourth, the EO contemplates enforcement of the EO.  For State Employees, unvaccinated employees will not be allowed on the premises of a State Agency.  While the EO does not state it directly, b/c each agency is required to create a policy regarding vaccination, any employee who violates the policy could be subject to "just cause" for discipline.

That is the Executive Order from the Governor, but that is not the end of the story.  Now that the EO is out and clearly it is a change in working conditions, we can negotiate the impact of this. Since this is a statewide mandate for all executive branch agencies, most likely, the state employee unions will negotiate collectively with the State.

 

 

Potential Vaccine Mandate

We want to set the record straight:  It has been publicly reported that Governor Lamont is in talks with labor representatives regarding mandating COVID vaccinations for state employees.  To be absolutely clear, A&R has not been involved in any such talks with the Administration on any level.  Nor are we aware of such talks at SEBAC. We don’t mean to refute the Governor's statements that talks have been held.  However, we must go on record here:  A&R has not been approached and no such talks have occurred.  We are aware that Executive Order 13B was signed and went into effect earlier this month mandating vaccinations for long-term care facility staff.  We are also aware that UCONN implemented a similar mandate for its employees this week.  Clearly the subject has come to our attention, but no discussions have taken place with our employer, nor have we discussed an impending vaccination mandate.

We view any potential employee vaccination mandate a matter that must be the subject of negotiations.  We consider this potential mandate a change in our working conditions, and as such our employer MUST negotiate the impact of any such changes with our union.  We will demand that the state honor its fundamental obligation to negotiate with the union on issues such as rules for compliance, exemptions to be allowed, timeframes for implementation, how the privacy of health records will be ensured, and other conditions of our employment, including regular COVID testing as an alternative to vaccination for those wishing to remain unvaccinated.  A&R’s goals include securing reasonable and fair working conditions and safety for all workers.

-posted 8/18/21