Vaccine incentives approved for UG employees

The Unified Government approved a vaccine incentive program on Thursday night, Sept. 30, that sets aside $1 million for UG employees who are fully vaccinated.

The testing component was eliminated from the motion by Commissioner Melissa Bynum.

On an 8-1 vote, the commission approved the $400 incentive for each employee who is fully vaccinated, and an additional $100 for employees who receive a booster shot.

Vaccines are not mandated, but have incentives under the COVID-19 mitigation plan that passed.

The original proposal had a testing alternative for those who do not get the vaccine, but that was eliminated in the version that passed. By eliminating the testing alternative, the resolution that passed avoided any potential conflicts with unions. It also avoided losing any employees over the testing provision.

Commissioner Mike Kane said Laborers International, Local 1290, did not sign off on the letter of understanding that was presented to it. Some of the UG’s 13 unions wanted to sit down and negotiate with the UG on the issues, according to Kane, but they believed it was being presented unilaterally. He fully believes everybody should be vaccinated, but not dictated to on whether to do it, he said. He added the UG would lose employees across the board for rushing into a program that included mandatory testing.

Commissioner Gayle Townsend voted against the resolution that passed, saying that she supported a smaller monetary amount, for example, $200, plus four hours of time off for employees who were vaccinated.

Commissioner Brian McKiernan said he did not oppose the version that passed, because it will be using American Rescue Plan Act funding for the incentives for employees. He said time off came with administrative overhead and could be more costly to the UG.

Covered under the mitigation plan were UG full-time employees, part-time employees, temporary and seasonal employees, temporary agency employees placed at the UG, contractors and volunteers, according to the proposal.

As of Sept. 27, about 1,269 UG employees were vaccinated out of about 2,300 according to UG officials.

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