Some Quebec companies offering bonuses to workers who get vaccinated against COVID-19

·4 min read
Workers aged 45 and up at the Olymel plant in Vallée-Jonction, Que., had the opportunity to not only get vaccinated on site Friday, but get paid for doing it. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Workers aged 45 and up at the Olymel plant in Vallée-Jonction, Que., had the opportunity to not only get vaccinated on site Friday, but get paid for doing it. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press - image credit)

When Guillermo Rodriguez heard his employer was paying eligible staff $25 bonuses to get vaccinated at work against COVID-19, he was quick to sign up. But he says he wasn't motivated by the money.

"It's for health," said Rodriguez, who works at the Olymel meat processing facility in Vallée-Jonction, Que.

He's concerned about his own health and even more about others.

Rodriguez and his colleagues have witnessed what happens when COVID-19 starts spreading among staff, and Olymel is only one of hundreds of companies in Quebec that have had outbreaks.

Now Olymel is among several employers in the province that are bringing in mobile vaccination clinics to inoculate staff, and also offering those who participate a bonus if they get the shot.

There are currently 643 outbreaks in workplaces across the province and, in some cases, those outbreaks can be far-reaching.

When the pandemic infiltrated the Olymel plant last fall, some 122 workers fell ill. That's 10 per cent of the workforce.

Many Canadian meat-packing and processing plants have been hit hard by the pandemic. For example, a London, Ont., meat-processing plant with 900 employees closed for two weeks this month when the number of active cases topped 80.

350 doses made available at Olymel plant

The Quebec government has been turning to the corporate sector for help with vaccinations and several companies are welcoming the initiative as outbreaks at work can be not only dangerous, but costly.

Martin Bédard, an employee of the Olymel plant for about four years, said the outbreak last year was a nightmare — one he doesn't want to relive. That's why he got the shot at work when it was offered.

"We will be protected, and we will protect others," he said. "It would be good if everybody got vaccinated."

The plant employs hundreds of people. A total of 350 doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine were made available for workers over the age of 45, as per provincial protocols.

Employees who get the second dose will be offered another $25, bringing the total bonus up to $50.

The Olymel plant is in the Chaudière-Appalaches region, which is struggling with a third wave of coronavirus infections.

'We encourage our employees to get vaccinated by providing information and by assisting them if they have difficulty obtaining an appointment if they want, for example, to get vaccinated elsewhere than the factory," said company spokesperson Richard Vigneault.

"We think the vaccination will help get us back to normal."

Olymel employee Guillermo Rodriguez said getting vaccinated against COVID-19 has nothing to do with $25. It's about protecting himself and others, he said.
Olymel employee Guillermo Rodriguez said getting vaccinated against COVID-19 has nothing to do with $25. It's about protecting himself and others, he said.(Radio-Canada)

Vigneault said nobody can force someone to get vaccinated but the aim of the bonuses is to give employees a little extra incentive.

There haven't been any serious outbreaks since the fall, he said, and the company is working with public health authorities to ensure another doesn't happen.

About 70 signed up right away to get the shot Friday morning, said Vigneault, and more are expected as people can notify their supervisor and get it done.

Running out of doses to give

A public transit authority on Quebec City's South Shore is also paying staff to get vaccinated.

The Société de transport de Lévis (STL) is offering $100 to those who show proof of a second dose.

The CISSS de Chaudière-Appalaches is now limiting the number of eligible businesses due to the drop in the number of AstraZeneca vaccines, but some 50 companies had mobile vaccination teams on site.

People were quick to line up in Montreal to get a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine as soon as the government made it available to those 45 and up.
People were quick to line up in Montreal to get a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine as soon as the government made it available to those 45 and up.(Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

Stock of the AstraZeneca vaccine is running low since the Quebec government allowed those 45 and up to make a reservation or show up at walk-in clinics. In Montreal, walk-ins were cancelled by Friday afternoon although appointments are still being honoured.

Health Minister Christian Dubé says the province is now halfway to its goal of vaccinating every Quebecer who wants a dose by June 24.

A record 88,000 doses were administered Thursday, Dubé said, bringing the overall total to 2.6 million first doses.