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AFGE Calls on Administration to Delay Vaccine Mandate for Feds

The union’s leader said the recent delay in enforcement of the vaccine mandate for contractors sets up a “double standard” in federal workplaces.

The nation’s largest federal employee union on Tuesday called on the Biden administration to delay enforcement of the mandate that all federal employees be vaccinated against COVID-19, in light of the recent decision to push back the mandate’s implementation for contractors until January.

Last week, the White House announced that it was pushing back the deadline for federal contractors to be vaccinated until Jan. 4 to align with the Occupational Health and Safety Administration’s rule requiring that the workforces of private businesses with at least 100 employees get the vaccine.

In a letter to Office of Management and Budget Acting Director Shalanda Young, Office of Personnel Management Director Kiran Ahuja and White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeff Zients, American Federation of Government Employees National President Everett Kelley urged the administration to do the same for federal employees.

“On behalf of [AFGE], representing over 700,000 federal and District of Columbia employees, I write you to urgently request full harmonization of COVID-19 vaccination deadlines between federal employees and contractors,” Kelley wrote.

Currently, the deadline for federal workers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 is Nov. 22, meaning feds were required to have gotten their final shot, or request a religious or medical exemption, earlier this week. Agencies were allowed to begin the counseling and disciplinary process on noncompliant employees Tuesday.

The postponement of the deadline for contractors has negatively impacted federal employees’ morale, Kelley said.

“Federal employees, who in many cases work side-by-side with contractors, have been held to a firm deadline of Nov. 22, 2021,” he wrote. “This double standard has caused confusion and distress among federal employees due to disparate treatment and incongruent deadlines for people who perform the government’s work in the same settings.”

Kelley said that while AFGE supports the White House’s goal of increasing vaccination rates, the administration should give federal workers the opportunity to “contemplate” complying with the vaccine mandate during the holiday season without the threat of discipline.

“It is inexcusable that contractors are being given the entire holiday season to meet the mandates, while federal employees continue to be subject to the Nov. 22 deadline,” he wrote. “The effect upon morale of federal employees being subject to possible discipline at this time of year cannot be overstated. Transportation security officers at the Transportation Security Administration are especially affected and dismayed by the seemingly more favorable (post-holiday) deadlines offered to contractors.”