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Pandemic work rewarded under state’s new ‘Unit 2’ contract

January 30, 2022

A hazardous duty bonus — which covers union members at the Holyoke and Chelsea Soldiers’ Homes — is part of the pact’s raises and bonuses.

Local 888 members working on the pandemic frontlines at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home have suffered through a lot of tough times. Now they have something to cheer about: raises, retroactive pay and COVID-19-related bonuses.
As part of the state’s “Unit 2” contract, those who typically work full time and served in person during the COVID crisis were to receive a hazardous duty bonus of $2,000. Regular part-timers were due $1,000.
Kwesi Ablordeppey, the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home chapter president, has told The Spark that the agreement is a good one that “is an improvement compared to previous contracts.”
When the membership ratified the Unit 2 agreement last summer, Elmer Arriazza, a member of the bargaining committee from the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home, commented: “People are very happy with the bonuses.”
The Unit 2 contract negotiations looked back to when the crisis hit hard at the state’s Holyoke and Chelsea Soldiers’ Homes. In Holyoke, 76 veterans died in the outbreak.
In addition to the hazardous duty bonus, the Unit 2 contract includes, for all workers:
• A 2.5 percent raise in November. (Note: That’s a higher percentage increase than the state originally proposed.)
• Retroactive pay, due in December, because the contract year finished July 1.
• A COVID-19 crisis bonus, also due in December, worth 1.5 percent of a worker’s pay, or a minimum of $1,000, in recognition of service.
In addition, raises in the second and third years of the contract (which runs through July 2023) will be 2 percent. Also: Juneteenth becomes a permanent state holiday.
The Unit 2 contract, overall, encompasses a wide range of employees — from mental health and youth case workers, as well as music and occupational therapists and also facility service workers, X-ray technicians and transportation officers.