Unvaccinated state workers in Massachusetts now at risk of losing their jobs

Coronavirus

BOSTON (WPRI) — The deadline for tens of thousands of Massachusetts state workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19 has come and gone.

While more than 40,000 employees are in compliance, having submitted the required attestation form or applied for an exemption, there are still nearly 1,600 workers at risk of losing their jobs, according to Gov. Charlie Baker’s office.

“In the coming days, the administration will work with the small number of employees not in compliance and implement progressive discipline if necessary,” spokesperson Terry MacCormack said in a statement. “At this time, the administration does not anticipate any significant staffing shortages in the immediate future.”

Beginning on Monday, each agency’s human resources departments will contact those remaining state workers to check on their vaccination or exemption status, MacCormack said.

“It is very clear at this point that the vaccine is by far the most effective tool we have in our toolbox to make it possible for us to beat this thing,” Baker said while announcing the mandate back in August.

Terminations for noncompliance would not be immediate, according to Baker’s office. The disciplinary process starts with a five-day suspension without pay.

For Massachusetts State Police, an agency already short-staffed, the union said about 300 members remained unvaccinated at the deadline, accounting for roughly 15% of the workforce. Before the mandate, the agency was already looking to the next police academy class to help with staffing issues.

According to the State Police Association, more than 150 state police employees have already quit or submitted paperwork saying they intend to do so.

Last week, Baker activated 250 National Guard troops to help offset potential staffing shortages at state prisons. The correction officers’ union said that more than 1,500 officers have not yet provided proof of vaccination.

While Baker’s executive order was met with applause from some, others criticized the measure.

“With all due respect to the men and women of the National Guard, we have highly trained correction officers who have worked throughout the pandemic for 18 months and to now say 50% would be terminated, it’s not right. It’s not fair,” said Kevin Flanagan, the legislative liaison for the Massachusetts Correction Officers Federated Union.

The governor’s office said all state employees should report to work as usual on Monday unless told otherwise. Exemption requests have been dealt with on a rolling basis, and some are still under review.

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