Pandemic Premium Pay

COVID Premium Pay and Other Developing Rumors

As has been widely reported in the press, Governor Lamont has proposed what has been referred to as “combat pay” bonuses for state employees working on the front lines in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic.  There has been much speculation, also reflected in the press, regarding the details of how that plan would be enacted, who will be eligible for the payments, and how much those payments will be per employee.  Similarly, there are legislative proposals at the General Assembly which would provide $5 per hour for state workers required to work on-site during the pandemic, and up to $10 per hour for those at specific risk due to the nature of their work (working in congregate settings such as nursing homes, group homes, corrections facilities, and etcetera).  Potential payments referenced in the press run the gamut, from a low of about $500 under the Governor’s plan to a high of up to $20,000 under other proposed legislation.  However, these are mere speculations. The ultimate outcome, of course, is subject to Legislative approval, and that approval does not appear near at hand.  Further, any bill under consideration by the General Assembly must navigate the legislative process and therefore is subject to change.  To be certain, this is a developing narrative.  To give some perspective, in Massachusetts last year, some front-line health care workers received “hazard pay’' bonuses of $500 related to the coronavirus pandemic.

To be clear, Governor Lamont’s plan does not specify which employees will qualify for pandemic Premium Pay, nor does it specify the amount of pandemic Premium Pay qualifying employees will receive.  While we appreciate the general sentiment of the Governor’s proposal as presented in his Plan for the American Rescue Plan Act, the proposal itself consists of a mere two sentences: “The Governor recommends $10 million for premium pay for front line state employees. This funding will provide financial recognition for the essential workers who gave us security during the COVID-19 pandemic”.  The state employee unions have collectively been seeking to compensate those employees who put themselves in harm’s way to carry out the onsite mission of the state throughout the pandemic.  We support the idea of premium pay for all employees, in both the public and private sectors.  This issue has been simmering “behind the scenes” throughout the course of the pandemic. We will continue to seek and support pandemic premium payments.  A&R’s position is that there should be funds made available and those funds should be distributed equitably to all state employees who were designated level one COVID essential and required to report onsite at work during the pandemic.

 

-5/4/21

HEP News: Complete the Diabetes Prevention Program & Earn $200

The Health Enhancement Program is sponsoring a diabetes prevention program.  Successful completion of the 12 month program can earn you a $200 reward.  Fellow union member Angie Russo (Department of Banking) can be seen in a brief video below describing the benefits of the program.

From the HEP program:

Did you know over 88 million Americans have prediabetes - and many don't even know it? The Digital Diabetes Prevention Program is being offered to state health plan members to help enact healthy habits and lifestyle changes to prevent the onset of diabetes. The program is run by the same group that administers the Health Enhancement Program (HEP).

This is a 12-month program focused on improving lifestyle behaviors to reduce diabetes risk. The program brings powerful education and motivating support right to your computer, smartphone or tablet. Successful completion of the program can now earn you a $200 reward!
 

To enroll, call the Health Enhancement Program
(HEP) at (877) 232-2674

 

Scavenger Hunt!

We know the pandemic conditions are getting to all of us and we have not been able to provide trips for the first half of this year and we need a break from the malaise.  Therefore, A&R is going to hold some games for prizes over the next few Wednesdays!

General Updates

Longevity: for those that qualify, Longevity payments were made in this week's paycheck.  The longevity chart can be found here.

Negotiations: Six sessions with the state have been held thus, with three more scheduled in May.  While negotiations are moving along at a relatively brisk pace, we are still in the initial stages of exchanging proposals.  As might be expected, the state's original position on wages is far from what we might consider acceptable to the membership (this is normal).  This should not be discouraging, as meaningful negotiations between the parties over wages have yet to occur.  Discussions over contract language have been productive, with both sides in general agreement that certain sections of the contract need revision.  Our contract, having been around for 40 years, is what can be described as "mature", meaning that we are essentially fine-tuning language to address issues that have arisen over the past few years.  Our main concerns still revolve around firmly implementing a proper Telework agreement, securing fair wage increases over the next contract, and addressing issues related to the anticipated retirement wave in 2022 and its impact on staffing.  As is often the case, the wage pattern ultimately offered to us will determine whether we can come to an agreement with the state.  It is much too early in the process, with meaningful negotiations over wages yet to occur, so we can only report that we are still hoping to reach an agreement but we do not have a time-table for that to occur.

Vaccinations:  No they are not required as a condition of employment.  If you do get a vaccination shot then you are eligible for 1hr of Comp Time for each shot you receive (you must validate that you received the shot to receive the Comp Time).  While you are NOT required to report your vaccination status, an hour of Comp Time is available for each shot administered, if you do.

Work From Home: the most important issue is the current Work From Home (WFH) directive.  Clearly, telework has been effective on a large scale.  Nonetheless, we all know that at some point, the Governor will lift his WFH directive to all agencies.  We do not have any insight as to when this will occur.  At the very least, we still have a "pre-pandemic" Interim Telework program in place that allows for 50% telework, we expect most people will opt to continue telework via this program when the time arrives. We understand the importance of Telework to the membership, it is one of our top priorities at the bargaining table.  Our goal is to maximize employee choice for telecommuting.

-4/23/21

 

A&R's 38th Annual Convention & Scholarship winners

A&R held its Annual Convention on April 22nd.  We thank all of the members who were able to participate.  This was our union's 38th Annual Convention, maintaining a long standing tradition.  We are proud we were able to conduct the consitutionally required business of the union in a safe manner, despite the pandemic. While little business was before the Convention, plenty of comraderie could be found.  With only the Annual Budget up for consideration, the business portion of the meeting was brief.