State worker vaccine deadline extended to Oct. 26 for first dose
Gov. JB Pritzker is pictured after receiving his COVID-19 vaccine in March. (Capitol News Illinois file photo by Jerry Nowicki)
Negotiations continue with largest public employee union
By PETER HANCOCK
Capitol News Illinois
SPRINGFIELD – Gov. JB Pritzker announced Monday that his administration has reached agreement with multiple trade unions requiring certain state workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19, but it is extending the deadline for workers to get their first shot to Oct. 26 while negotiations continue with the state’s largest public employees union.
Pritzker issued executive orders in late August and early September that apply to state employees, contractors and vendors who work in congregate facilities, as well as certain heath care workers, school personnel and higher education employees. Congregate facilities include those operated by the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs, the Illinois Department of Human Services, the Illinois Department of Corrections, and the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice.
The original deadline for a first dose was set for Oct. 4, but has been extended several times.
The order also directed the Department of Central Management Services Labor Relations team to negotiate how to implement the mandate. While four unions have entered agreements with the state, negotiations continue with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME, which is the largest public employee union in Illinois.
“Leadership by President Biden and businesses across the country show that vaccine requirements work,” Pritzker said in a statement. “I’m proud to announce that Illinois has reached our fourth union agreement to ensure those we serve are protected. Vaccination remains our strongest tool to stay safe from COVID-19 and protect our children.”
The order allows for exemptions for medical or religious reasons, but those who take the exemption will be subject to additional testing requirements. Those who remain unvaccinated and are not granted an exemption will be subject to progressive disciplinary actions that could ultimately lead to being fired, the administration said in a news release.
The agreements reached so far cover about 1,990 employees throughout the state. In addition to the trade unions, which represent about 470 employees at various facilities, other agreements include VR-704, which represents 260 supervisory workers at the Department of Corrections and Department of Juvenile Justice; the Illinois Nurses Association, representing about 1,100 nurses at state facilities; and the Illinois Federation of Public Employees, with about 160 workers.
Under the agreements, if the vaccine is not available during an employee’s regularly scheduled shift, they will receive regular pay for the time taken for the time taken to get the vaccine. Employees will also receive paid “COVID time” so if a vaccinated worker contracts the disease, they will receive paid time off without using their benefit time.
But the administration still has not reached such an agreement with AFSCME, which, according to a union spokesman, represents 39,000 state workers – including more than 20,000 in facilities covered by the executive order.
More information about where vaccines are available can be found at www.vaccines.gov.
Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.