COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – The deadline has passed for Columbus city employees to qualify for a COVID-19 vaccine incentive.
The incentive, announced in October, came with a Dec. 1 deadline for employees to be fully vaccinated, with the city reporting mixed success.
Columbus’ director or human resources said of the employees who qualified for the $500 incentive, about three-quarters of them received it.
The catch is that the vast majority of city employees didn’t qualify.
In an effort to get more city employees vaccinated against COVID-19, the Columbus City Council approved a memorandum of understanding (MOU) in October: show your completed vaccination card by Dec. 1 and get $500.
According to the city’s department of human resources, 1,336 employees took the city up on the offer, totaling $668,000 in incentives paid out.
Nearly 9,400 people are employed by the city.
“Unfortunately, some of our larger groups chose not to sign the MOU,” said Nichole Brandon, the city’s director of human resources.
Brandon said the city’s largest unions, representing about 7,500 employees, never approved the incentive program.
“All of the union groups who have yet to sign did agree to sit down with us,” Brandon said. “They shared some thoughts and ideas but were just unable to agree.”
Since the deadline has come and gone, she said the city is still considering its next move.
“We continue to monitor the numbers, we continue to, to see whether or not, you know, the virus itself is spreading more,” Brandon said. “And we will determine whether or not we need to take a tougher stance on this.”
Brandon said the city still stands against a vaccine mandate for its employees.
“Employees don’t want to be mandated,” she said. “If they choose to walk off the job, there are significant city services that would be impacted by that. And so, we don’t want to see that happen.”
The employees who qualified for the incentive are those who work for Columbus Public Health, are not represented by a union, or are part of the FOP/OLC union, which represents just more than 60 employees.
The unions that didn’t sign off on the incentive program are the Fraternal Order of Police, the International Association of Firefighters, Communication Workers of America, and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees.
The president of the firefighters’ union said it didn’t approve the incentive program because it believes the “hero pay” bonuses should be kept separate from any vaccine inventive, but the city tied it to the program. He said the union is back at the table and will hopefully come up with a new plan soon.
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