State Reaches Union Agreement For Vaccine Mandate in Congregate Facilities

State Reaches Union Agreement For Vaccine Mandate in Congregate Facilities

The state of Illinois has struck its first union agreement requiring vaccines for certain state workers in congregate facilities.

The agreement covers about 260 supervisory employees at the Illinois Department of Corrections and the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice, which are represented by VR-704.

Employees must receive their first shot by Oct. 14, 2021. Should an employee elect a two-dose vaccine, they must receive the second shot by Nov. 18.

State officials said via a news release today (Monday, Sept. 20, 2021) that employees who remain unvaccinated pose a significant risk to individuals in the Illinois’ congregate facilities. Therefore, if employees do not receive the vaccine or an exemption by the dates identified, progressive disciplinary measures will be implemented, which may ultimately lead to discharge.

The agreement includes a process whereby employees can seek an exemption based on medical contraindications or sincerely-held religious beliefs.

“With new variants among us, the quick spread of COVID-19 in congregate settings in Illinois and across the nation continues to harm the most vulnerable among us,” said Gov. JB Pritzker. “We have a safe and proven tool to end this pandemic, and vaccination remains the most effective way to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities.”

Last month, Pritzker announced that all state workers who work in state run congregate facilities would be required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, that includes employees at IDOC and DJJ, the Illinois Department of Human Services and the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, subject to bargaining.

Negotiations between the unions representing the rest of the workforce impacted by this mandate are ongoing.

“When staff take the life-saving vaccine, they are protecting their colleagues, individuals in custody and communities while moving the agency closer to normal operations,” said Rob Jeffreys, director of the Illinois Department of Corrections. “This commitment will help IDOC overcome the challenges associated with infection control in congregate living environments.”

To further encourage vaccinations under the agreement with VR-704, employees will receive an additional personal day. If the vaccine administration is not available during an employee’s regularly scheduled shift, the employee may be compensated at their regular pay for the time taken to receive the vaccine.

In addition, vaccinated employees will receive paid “COVID time,” so that if a vaccinated employee gets COVID-19, or must quarantine due to COVID-19, they will receive a period of paid time off without using their benefit time.

The COVID-19 vaccine has been available for healthcare and nursing home workers since Dec. 15, 2020, and open to teachers since Jan. 25, 2021.

All Illinois residents over the age of 12 are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at no cost and proof of immigration status is not required to receive the vaccine.

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SOURCE: state of Illinois news release