‘I think it was a misstep’: McKee says changes are coming to controversial $3K vaccine incentive

Coronavirus

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Gov. Dan McKee’s controversial plan that would provide state employees with $3,000 bonuses for getting vaccinated against COVID-19 appears to be changing course.

The four-year contract, which was approved by AFSCME Council 94, the state’s largest union group, last week. It would give two $1,500 bonuses to state workers who have been immunized.

The plan has drawn criticism from lawmakers, including R.I. Deputy House Speaker Charlene Lima who described it as a “misuse of taxpayer dollars.”

During a media briefing Thursday, Gov. Dan McKee said he plans on making changes to the incentive after meeting with a coalition of labor unions, which is a group that negotiates on behalf of several individual unions in the state.

McKee did not go into specifics about the meeting, but said there is a stipend that is no longer connected to the vaccine.

12 News reached out to Council 94 President J. Michael Downey, who said he was not at the coalition meeting and doesn’t know exactly what those changes could entail.

However, he said any changes that are negotiated would also be reflected in his union as well, and if the incentives are tied to retention instead of the vaccine, he believes it will be an improvement for his members since right now, only those who are vaccinated are benefitting from the bonus.

Mckee said he has been in contact with Council 94 about the changes and has “offered the same opportunity” to its members.

“We will keep our promise and our commitment to the contract, but we are open to reevaluating that,” McKee said. “I think it was a misstep, but I think we have corrected it.”

“I listen to people and that’s why I stepped in and did what I did,” he continued.

McKee said the state isn’t immune to the labor shortages other industries are experiencing, and stipends tied to retention aren’t uncommon.

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