PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The largest state employees' union in Rhode Island has approved a new four-year contract that includes $3,000 COVID-19 vaccination bonuses, officials said.
Council 94 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents about 3,800 workers, overwhelmingly approved of the deal on Thursday. The contract also includes 2.5% annual raises.
Union and state officials said the bonus will help retain strained public workers.
“Our employees continue to provide services while shouldering increased demands because of the pandemic, and it is important we recognize those efforts and make the state an employer of choice,” state Director of Administration James Thorsen said in a statement.
“This was done so that we could retain your public servants,” Council 94 Vice President Lynn Loveday said.
Workers can get the bonus without being vaccinated for COVID-19 if they are granted a religious or medical exemption.
The program is estimated to cost $9.6 million, and will be funded with federal relief dollars.
Democratic Gov. Daniel McKee told WPRI-TV that the contract “was fair to the workers and fair to the taxpayers.”
The bonuses drew criticism from some Democrats and Republicans who said it was unfair, and appeared to condemn the unvaccinated.