Some state workers get $2,000 bonus for pandemic work
New contracts give correction officers, direct care workers hazard pay
AMID A PUBLIC debate over whether to award “premium pay” to public employees who worked in person during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Baker administration quietly inked deals to give thousands of state employees $2,000 bonuses for their work. The agreements were reached under the radar and with no announcement, despite recent comments by Gov. Charlie Baker that consideration of such bonus pay should be part of a public discussion.
On Monday, the Baker administration signed an agreement with the Massachusetts Correction Officers Federated Union, which represents state correction officers, to award the bonuses.
The agreement, which is separate from the MCOFU contract, gives full-time union member employees who worked in person between November 2, 2020, and May 29, 2021, and who were not given the option of working remotely or in a hybrid schedule, a $2,000 bonus. Employees who worked part-time or on a hybrid schedule will get a $1,000 bonus. The bonus applies to direct care and public safety workers and those who work in other roles like cleaning or maintenance.
A nearly identical agreement was signed July 27 with AFSCME Council 93, which represents people working in juvenile justice, higher education, and a range of other occupations, as part of AFSCME’s newest contract.
According to the Executive Office for Administration and Finance, the state has executed agreements with four unions so far – MCOFU, AFSCME, SEIU Local 509, and NAGE – to provide additional support for employees.
Negotiations with other unions are ongoing. According to the Massachusetts Nurses Association, the state has proposed a bonus for its workers, but an agreement is not yet signed.
Patrick Russell, the president of the Massachusetts Organization of State Engineers and Scientists, said his union asked the administration to bargain once federal stimulus money became available, and they are still in discussions. “We’ve had preliminary conversations with the Commonwealth about hazard pay,” Russell said.
Not all public safety workers got bonuses. According to the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts and the State Police Association of Massachusetts, neither firefighters nor state police officers have gotten bonus pay. Chris Keohan, a spokesperson for the police union, said the union has not gotten bonus or hazard pay despite taking on increased responsibility for things like assisting with vaccination sites, transporting vaccines, and operating morgues. The union is in contract negotiations now.
The new bonuses come on top of temporary wage hikes implemented for some state workers last spring.
Megan Piccirillo, a spokesperson for SEIU Local 509, said last summer, state workers in hospitals, mental health facilities, and group homes, and social workers for the Department of Children and Families, all got premium or hazard pay. They received $5 to $10 hourly wage increases, depending on the position. Members who did not miss a shift between March 10 and April 12, 2020, got $500 bonuses. Health care workers from other unions were also eligible for similar bonus pay.
The contracts come as the state is considering what to do with a huge influx of money from the federal American Rescue Plan Act. At a recent hearing, House Ways and Means chair Aaron Michlewitz asked Baker if he had considered using the money for premium pay for essential workers.