Council 93 Secures $13.9 Million in COVID-19 Bonuses for Unit 2 Members in Massachusetts

Boston, MA- More than 6,500 Council 93 members working for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts recently received a combined total of $13.9 million in one-time COVID-19 Hazardous Duty Payments thanks to the advocacy and negotiating skills of Council 93 staff and members of our bargaining team.

The payments, which were secured in conjunction with the last Unit 2 state contract agreement and arrived in members’ most recent paychecks, are well-deserved recognition for the hard work and perseverance Council 93 members have shown throughout the pandemic.

Unit 2 members work with some of the most vulnerable populations in direct care settings across the Massachusetts Departments of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, Public Health, Youth Services, and State Corrections Facilities.

Conservation and Recreation workers also shared in the Hazardous Duty Payments. Usage of state forests, parks, greenways, historic sites and landscapes, seashores, lakes, ponds, reservoirs and watersheds surged during the pandemic as the public sought safe, outdoor, and socially distanced recreational opportunities during the pandemic.

Nearly 90% of employees were eligible for the maximum allowed payment of $2,000 for those workers who were directed to work full-time in person throughout the pandemic. The remaining full-time hybrid and part-time employees received $1,000 payments.

“That most Council 93 members received the maximum payments, shows that our members are critical to keeping the Commonwealth running by serving our most vulnerable citizens,” said Council 93 Executive Director Mark Bernard, “Many of our members put their health and the health of their families on the line, and continue to do so, that sacrifice and dedication deserves to be recognized and honored.”

Kelly Druskis-Abreu, President of Local 137 and a Mental Health Worker at Worcester Recovery Center and Hospital, says that the Hazardous Duty Payments come as a relief to workers on the COVID-19 frontlines “for a lot of the essential state workers, they come into work giving their all in this time of uncertainty. Not knowing what the shift brings or if they will be able to leave at the end of their shift due to the increased number of COVID positive cases amongst their colleagues.”

Frontline workers are still dealing with the impacts of the pandemic each and every day. Druskis-Abreu notes “there is a lot more stress that is being put on ones’ shoulders. Constant use of uncomfortable PPE. Workers fear being infected, infecting their loved ones at home, missing work and lack of pay if you run out of sick time, because it’s not the 1st or 2nd time you’ve been out.”

Bernard also addressed ongoing negotiations with other employers in the Council 93 region, “while we applaud the Commonwealth for recognizing the dedication of our Unit 2 members, we continue to fight for recognition from all of the employers across our four-state region for the extraordinary work and commitment displayed by Council 93 members throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.”

This is not the first time Council 93 has secured additional pay rewarding workers for their bravery and dedication during the ongoing pandemic.  In April of 2020, an agreement negotiated and finalized by Council 93 over Easter Sunday weekend provided Massachusetts AFSCME direct care workers with additional “shift differential” pay ranging from five to ten dollars per hour. That additional pay, which was referred to at the time as a “good start” by Executive Director Bernard, was provided well before vaccines were available and workers had little or no access to adequate masks and other PPE. Thanks to public data released by the Baker Administration at the urging of Council 93, we know that more than 900 state direct care workers were infected with the virus during these early days of the pandemic, resulting in many others being mandated to work multiple double shifts a week.

Just a few weeks prior to that agreement, Council 93 reached a similar agreement with Maine Governor Janet Mills providing well-deserved, hourly increases for Council 93 state corrections officers and mental health workers.  It was the first agreement its kind in the Council 93 region and among the very first in the country.  In addition, over the past two years, the Council has successfully negotiated a number of hazard pay agreements at the municipal and county level and has continued to fight to secure such pay for as many members as possible.