OLYMPIA — Washington’s largest state worker union has announced a tentative agreement with Gov. Jay Inslee’s administration on parts of the governor’s vaccine mandate.
The deal announced by the Washington Federation of State Employees (WFSE) doesn’t change the substance of the requirement ordered by Inslee last month: State workers must be completely vaccinated by Oct. 18 or they will lose their job.
But if workers ratify the deal this coming week, there will be a little wiggle room as they seek religious or medical exemptions.
For instance, if a state worker’s exemption request is denied, the worker can use up to 45 days of paid or unpaid leave to get fully vaccinated, according to an outline of the deal. That 45-day window will also apply to workers whose exemption is approved, but where an accommodation can’t be found for them by the state to work in a role where they interact with fewer people.
If a state worker has requested an exemption by Sept. 13 and is cooperating with the state’s process, and officials are still reviewing the exemption on Oct. 18, the worker will not lose any pay until a decision is provided on the exemption.
Another part of the deal will allow unvaccinated workers to retire by the end of the calendar year, rather than losing their jobs immediately. Those workers will be able to use accrued leave or unpaid leave until their retirement date, as long as they submit their retirement paperwork by Oct. 18.
Meanwhile, state workers getting vaccinated will get one extra day of personal leave, which they can use sometime during the 2022 calendar year.
In an email Saturday morning, Inslee spokesperson Mike Faulk wrote, “We are confident that through our negotiation efforts and partnership going forward, we have clarified issues to help employees get on the path towards vaccination and ultimately provide for safer workplaces.”
The tentative deal comes after WFSE late last month filed an unfair labor practices complaint against the Inslee administration, contending that the vaccine mandate should be delayed until its impacts have been adequately bargained.
Inslee’s vaccine mandates have been one of the strictest in the nation.
On Aug. 28, at least 1,000 people gathered at the Capitol campus to demonstrate against the vaccine mandates for state and school, workers, some health care employees.
A similar demonstration was scheduled for Saturday afternoon at the Capitol.