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Discipline, Incentives Await Unvaccinated Steamship Employees



Michael P. Norton

Steamship Authority employees must demonstrate that they have received at least one COVID-19 vaccination by Wednesday in order to prevent “progressive discipline” that could end in terminations. The Woods Hole, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Steamship Authority also said Tuesday that it is providing an “incentive” of up to $500 per employee “to further encourage vaccination adoption.”

The authority said its vaccination verification policy is designed “to further prevent viral infection and transmission among its workforce and the traveling public.” “Protecting the health and safety of our employees and customers is a critical priority as we continue to be affected by the pandemic and emerging variants of COVID-19,” Steamship Authority General Manager Robert Davis said in a statement. “It is imperative that all employees be vaccinated to help halt the spread of COVID-19, and implementation of the verification policy is a major step toward achieving that goal.”

Under the authority’s plans, employees must demonstrate that they are fully vaccinated by Feb. 16 in order to avoid being disciplined. The policy, which also covers contract employees and interns, is consistent with state and federal orders and recommendations issued last year by Gov. Charlie Baker and President Joseph Biden for state agencies and authorities and organizations with 100 or more employees, the authority said.

Exemptions may be granted if an employee provides documentation that vaccination would be detrimental to their health or contradict strongly held religious beliefs. In those instances, weekly testing will be required. The authority said implementing the policy is within the rights of its management but it is also in active negotiations with seven bargaining units. It has secured a memorandum of understanding with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which represents reservation clerks, and continues to work toward agreements with employees represented by the Teamsters and the Marine Engineers Beneficiary Association.

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