SEBAC Updates on Mandatory COVID Vaccine and Testing

 SEBAC Update on EO-13G and EO-13F - 10/14/2021

Today the Lamont Administration began placing permanent employees who have not complied with the executive orders (EO) on unpaid leave. Employees covered by the EOs can take advantage of the benefits set forth in the agreement (available PDF icon HERE) that SEBAC and state officials negotiated. Please see updates below for additional details of the agreement, including who is and is not covered by it.

SEBAC continues to call on the Lamont Administration to temporarily allow testing in lieu of vaccination at certain state hospitals and long-term care facilities where strictly enforcing a vaccination requirement will exacerbate staffing shortages and potentially cause harm to patients/clients and staff. 

SEBAC unions will continue to shine a light on how these shortages across multiple state agencies are damaging public services and putting further strain on front-line workers who have been there for Connecticut’s citizens throughout the pandemic. 

 

SEBAC Impact Bargaining Update on EO-13G and EO-13F - 10/8/2021

SEBAC and the State have made significant progress in negotiating the impact of EO-13G and EO-13F. This progress has resulted in a new formal Agreement that covers many of the issues left unresolved in the 9/23 Agreement (See 9/23 update below). The new Agreement assures that members are not deemed out of compliance because of computer error or related problem, provides for free testing, and gives employees who do not comply with the EOs the ability to resign in good standing with the option to rescind such resignation for one year. A copy of the new Agreement can be found PDF icon HERE. Some important highlights from the new Agreement include:

Testing:

-In addition to the available free testing sites, the State will cover the cost of tests at other facilities during the Emergency Declaration period under the State’s Health Plan (previously only agreed to the first four tests).  

-Employees may use vacation, sick leave, comp time and personal leave to get tested.

Non-compliance: 

- Permanent employees who refuse to follow the EOs will be placed on an authorized, unpaid leave of absence with position held for 45 days (State previously said 15 days).

-During the first 30 days, an employee may choose to elect a voluntary resignation in good standing. By resigning, the employee will retain the right to rescind the resignation and fill any vacancy in their former position, or any position in which they previously held permanent status. 

-An employee who does not elect resignation will be separated from employment following the 45th day of unpaid leave.  Nothing in the new agreement waives any grievance rights an employee may have under their collective bargaining agreement.

-Additional information about resignation and separation from employment is detailed in Appendix A to the Agreement. 

While we are pleased with the progress that has been made, the new Agreement does not adequately address our concerns that strict enforcement of the vaccine requirement in state hospitals and long-term care facilities could exacerbate the staffing shortages that existed long before COVID-19.  We continue to urge the State to allow the unions and the state to meet to discuss remedies in the event the mandate exacerbates critical staffing shortages in particular facilities and to temporarily allow a testing option in those facilities to prevent harm to clients/patients or staff.   (Read Statement HERE). 

This Agreement does not apply to bargaining units not directly covered by the Executive Orders, including Judicial, Criminal Justice, and Public Defenders who are bargaining with respect to policies set by their employers, or to unclassified professional Higher Education units who reached separate agreements prior to the issuance of the order.

SEBAC Statement on State’s Non-Compliance Letter Sent to Employees - 9/30/2021

The State recently sent a letter to employees who -- based on the State’s records -- have not complied with the EO. The letter states that the State will place such employees on unpaid leave, positions not held as early as October 5 if they do not come into compliance.  SEBAC has not agreed to this. We remain strongly opposed to any suggestion that employees who are sent home but subsequently come into compliance would lose their jobs, and we will fight to defend employees who do so.

 

SEBAC Impact Bargaining Update on EO-13G - 9/23/2021

The parties now have a formal written agreement covering those EO-13G issues upon which they do agree, and identifying some of the issues still being disputed. We had noted this on Monday when SEBAC and the Lamont Administration reached a conceptual agreement on some of the issues relating to the impacts of the recent Executive Order 13G concerning mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for certain state employees (Note: For employees not working in state hospitals or long-term care facilities, that mandate includes the ability to refuse the vaccine if the employee submits to weekly COVID testing.)    There are a number of issues upon which the parties remain in disagreement and which may be decided by a neutral arbitrator.  

The Agreement applies only to those covered by EO-13G. The executive order does not apply to Judicial, Criminal Justice, or Public Defenders who are bargaining with respect to policies set by their employers which are patterned on EO-13G.   Nor does the order apply to unclassified professional Higher Education units that reached separate agreements.  So none of those bargaining units are directly affected by the signed agreement.

You can find a copy of the Agreement PDF icon HERE. As outlined in the Agreement, there are many outstanding issues. SEBAC will continue to negotiate, and if necessary, arbitrate the remaining issues that are still in dispute. 

Since our last update, we have clarified the following:

-The State has agreed that the state health insurance plan will cover the first four COVID tests at 100% for those sites not already providing free coverage. The State had previously provided the list of Free State Sponsored Testing Sites for all additional Covid tests which can be found HERE

-The State now agrees that employees can use sick time, as well as personal leave time, vacation time, or other accruals to cover work time lost to get tested. The parties are still in dispute about whether employees can use state time to get tested outside of mandatory testing facilities, 

-Due to implementation issues, the governor’s office sent an email today indicating that it is not clear when the testing or vaccine mandate will be fully operational. As such, all employees should report to work on Monday unless directed otherwise.

-The Agreement provides that employees may choose to submit proof of vaccine and testing  via a dedicated fax number/email address as well as on the Wellspark app.  Instructions can be found HERE.  As had previously been agreed, all medically acceptable tests (nasal and saliva) are sufficient.  Home tests are not currently allowed. 

A number of issues remain unresolved. 

Such issues include whether outside of mandatory testing facilities, testing should be paid for by the State and on State time, the exact nature of the consequence for not complying with the executive order, and whether there should be a cash incentive associated with being vaccinated. For additional information, you can find a summary of the outcome of negotiations thus far  in our September 20 update (found HERE).