Front-line City of Winnipeg employees have a few more weeks than their provincial counterparts to get vaccinated, but it’s still unclear what some will have to do if they opt against the shots.
The city has said all of its employees who have ongoing contact with vulnerable Winnipeggers, including children under 12 and those who work in high-risk settings with direct, ongoing contact with the public, must be fully vaccinated against the virus by Nov. 15.
The mandate extends to staff working in public safety, community protection, recreation services, public transportation and public-facing customer service roles, and because of the two-week immunization period, workers will need have their second dose no later Oct. 28.
While the union representing Winnipeg police officers tells Global News members who are unvaccinated will undergo regular rapid testing, the transit union says the mandate may sideline bus drivers who haven’t got the shots.
“We are discussing with the city, with transit officials in the city, how we could accommodate some of our members for medical reasons, medical exemptions, some for religious reasons,” Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1505 president Romeo Ignacio told 680 CJOB this week.
“We’re still dealing with some members that have vaccine hesitancy.”
Ignacio says roughly 80 per cent of its members are fully-vaccinated, but he estimates somewhere between 100 and 150 drivers may not be able to work under the mandate.
The city has previously said they’ll consider moving unvaccinated employees to non-public-facing roles, but Ignacio fears that will lead to reduced service, since turnover among drivers is already so high.
“We’re trying to figure out how we can protect the public, serve the public better, because we know this is going to be a problem for the service if we lose a few of our members.”
Meanwhile, Winnipeg police association president Moe Sabourin says about 10 per cent of members — or some 190 officers — either haven’t declared their vaccination status or have said they won’t get the shots.
But Sabourin says the police service has agreed to allow unvaccinated officers who undergo regular rapid testing to continue to work, providing they show proof of a negative test.
He said the service is still working on logistics, but he expects testing to be done by officers themselves at home. The cost of the tests is being covered by the city, Sabourin added.
“It would be on your honour, and I don’t think any of our members would come to work if they had the sniffles, and it’d be the same as if they did a rapid test at home,” he said.
“If you have a positive test, none of our members are going to come in.”
Sabourin acknowledged the vaccination issue hasn’t been easy for the union, with some members asking the association to take action against the mandate.
“But at the end of the day the law is not in our favour as far as filing a grievance or that sort of thing and making a human rights complaint,” he said.
“The majority of the membership wants a safe workplace, and that’s why we’re trying to encourage those members that don’t want to be vaccinated to get vaccinated and if not, then make sure (they) do the alternative that the service has provided to make sure that the workplace and the citizens of Winnipeg are safe.”
A vaccine mandate for front-line provincial employees starts Oct. 31, meaning affected workers need to get their second shot by Monday.
— with files from Skylar Peters
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