Haverhill Mayor Says Vax Order Was His First Responder Offer; Union Calls Strings Unfair

Haverhill Fire Department Local 1011 held a protest against poor working conditions and understaffing on Nov. 4, 2019. (WHAV News file photograph.)

Haverhill’s mayor is disputing an account the city’s first responders were not offered COVID-19 “premium pay,” but union members are standing firm a January order came with strings attached.

Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini said in a statement Thursday what he called a “carrot and stick” approach in January—paying $500 to city workers who receive vaccinations—is his version of premium pay.

The mayor, who is out of town, said “All other unions agreed, accepted the money and thanked us. Police and fire refused.”

Haverhill Firefighters Local 1011 President Timothy Carroll questioned the January city rule requiring workers to be vaccinated by March 4. Those that complied were promised an incentive paid with federal American Rescue Plan Act money.

“Haverhill Fire would not accept the $500 for being vaccinated. No member in this union took that $500 because they didn’t believe it should only go to vaccinated people. It should go to everybody who worked through COVID,” he said.

Carroll said the order is also the subject of a union complaint which will be heard in May by the state Department of Labor. He explained the union filed charges of retaliation when the city refused to continue bargaining.

Fiorentini’s statement also referenced the firefighter position, saying, “The fire union even sent the city a letter telling us not to add the $500 pay to their salary.” Carroll, however, said the city solicitor acknowledged the letter by email and said police and fire were not allowed to get the money anyway since they didn’t sign off on the policy.

“The only department in City Hall, that works in City Hall and showed up to work during COVID was the Fire Department. Everybody else did remote work, including the mayor’s office,” he said.

The January City Hall edict requires workers who refuse to be vaccinated to be tested weekly for COVID-19.

Haverhill Police Patrolmen’s Association President Rick Welch told WHAV this week his union is still negotiating a COVID-19 impact bargaining agreement with the city. The mayor responded, “The police patrolmen’s union also refused the $500. That union has about one third of the force who refuse to get vaccinated. They demanded that if they get tested that they receive four hours overtime pay at time and a half each time they get tested for COVID.”

“Our offer of $500 for everyone who worked through the pandemic and was vaccinated remains on the table. It is exactly what every other union agreed to,” Fiorentini’s statement concluded.

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