Transit Workers May be 2nd Priority for CVOID-19 Vaccine

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended giving public transit workers the COVID-19 vaccine during the second phase of immunizations that are expected to begin next month.

That would place transit workers into the second priority group of front line essential workers.

The first round of vaccinations began last week and largely involved health care workers.

In an unrelated development, a union representing workers at the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority said the agency’s COVID-19 policies create disincentives for workers to follow health and safety guidelines.

In a news release, Local 234 of the Transport Workers Union said SEPTA has mandated that if a third period of COVID-19 related quarantine is required, a worker would have to use his or her own leave and earn half-pay.

SEPTA provides paid leave to TWU members who have been exposed to the virus or presumed to have been exposed, but TWU officials said the policy may push workers struggling financially who have exhausted their paid leave to return to work while still potentially contagious or sick.

The union unsuccessfully sought to bring the issue up during a Dec. 15 meeting between SEPTA managers and union officials but, the union said, the managers declined to discuss the matter.

“We want everyone who is a possible risk to riders and coworkers to stay away,” said TWU Local 234 President Willie Brown.

“We should be creating incentives to be under quarantine, not disincentives. SEPTA is trying to save a buck because ridership is down, but making the workforce and riders sick won’t help the bottom line.”

Eight members of TWU 234 have died from COVID-19 and more than 400 have been infected, union officials said. 

In the latest statement TWU said it is considering legal action if SEPTA does not change its policies.

A SEPTA official told The Philadelphia Inquirer that fewer than 160 employees have used all 160 hours available for sick leave and that a legal battle is “the last thing” the agency wants.

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