More than 6,000 health care workers in Massachusetts state hospitals, medical facilities, and group homes are slated to receive hazard pay during the coronavirus crisis under a new agreement struck between their union and state officials Sunday night.
The employees will receive temporary pay raises of as much as $10 per hour through at least May 30 and through the end of the COVID-19 health crisis, AFSCME Council 93 said in a press release.
“We’re pleased to deliver this hard-earned pay increase for our members,” Council 93 Executive Director Mark Bernard said in a statement. “The agreement we signed with the state calls these increases ‘pay incentives,’ but we view them primarily as well-deserved recognition for the courage and dedication AFSCME human services professionals are exhibiting on the job every single day and night.”
All licensed workers will receive the $10 bump, while all other workers will receive a $5 per hour increase, according to Council 93. Union officials say the raises will remain in effect until at least May 30, regardless of whether the state Executive Office of Health and Human Services determines the health crisis “has abated” before then.
Council 93 said approximately 6,500 AFSCME members will receive the pay raises.
In addition, some health care workers who have not missed a shift or regular workday since Gov. Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency last month will receive a one-time $500 bonus, according to the union.
AFSCME Council 93 said representatives at local health care facilities have told union leaders that absenteeism has been “extremely low” among AFSCME members during the pandemic response, despite the high-risk work environments.
AFSCME members serve in state public health and mental health hospitals, the Department of Youth Services, and developmental disability group homes and facilities. AFSCME Council 93 represents more than 45,000 public workers in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont.
“Our members know that they are needed now, perhaps more than ever,” Bernard said in a statement. “And, they have really stepped up during the crisis. They have been wherever they are needed, whenever they are needed. We are grateful to the Baker Administration for acknowledging their contributions.”
According to Bernard, who called the agreement a “good start,” the union will continue to work towards higher pay for health care workers during the crisis and towards expanding the pay raises to members who were not included in the deal. Part of that work will include a push to award hazard pay for workers retroactively, dating back to when the state of emergency was declared in March, he said.
The agreement comes after AFSCME Council 93 struck a deal earlier this month with Maine Gov. Janet Mills to provide hazard pay to 810 union members in state mental health and correctional facilities. Those raises range from $3 to $5 per hour “depending on a workers’ responsibilities,” union officials said.