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No unions representing first responders in Columbus have agreed to city's $500 vaccine incentive

The City of Columbus is offering $500 to employees who get a COVID-19 shot. No union representing first responders has agreed to the program.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Columbus firefighters gathered outside Fire Station 21 on Tuesday to pay their respects to firefighter Greg Bauer who passed away after his battle with COVID-19.

He is the second firefighter from the division to die after being hospitalized with the virus.  

Frankl Duff Jr., a 20-year veteran, died last month from COVID-19. While their vaccination status is unknown, the city of Columbus is trying to incentivize more city employees to get vaccinated by giving them $500.

Only one union has agreed to the program and not a single union that represents first responders has accepted.

“This is not a mandate. This is an incentive program hoping that employees will make the decision to do the right thing to get vaccinated if they can and take advantage of this incentive program which is $500,” said Nikki Brandon, Human Resources Director for the city of Columbus.

Under the city’s memorandum of understanding, the union presidents must sign off on the program in order for their members to qualify for the cash. For now, none qualify.

“Those employees are not eligible because the union presidents did not agree to sign that memorandum," Brandon said.

The deadline to get the cash runs out on Dec. 1.

For now, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther is not in favor of mandating the vaccine and is instead hoping this incentive will make more employees get the shot. 

The concern Brandon said is that mandating may force people to walk off the job impacting city services like garbage pickup, or emergency services.  

“What happens after Dec. 1 remains to be seen whether or not the city’s position changes. It’s all going to determine where we are in this pandemic,” Brandon said.

Columbus Public Health mandated its employees show proof of vaccination by Nov. 1. If they get the shot they will qualify for the $500.

In the event the city mandates vaccines for union employees, the city says that would need to be negotiated at the bargaining table.

Cincinnati is requiring all city employees to get vaccinated. If not, they are required to be tested on a weekly basis.

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