As the deadline for all employees in the City of Toronto to be fully protected from COVID-19 passes, a patchwork of penalties means the public may not know that key front-line workers were vaccinated Yes or No.
While Torontonians may feel reassured by the city’s tough stance – thousands of employees face vaccinations or suspensions and then dismissals – a Toronto police officer leaning into someone’s vehicle should not face such an ultimatum. have to do.
Meanwhile, drivers of TTC vehicles without vaccination face only possible penalties. The fate of those vaccination holdouts is unclear due to staff shortages and fears of transit service disruptions as a result.
The rules are revealed by a one-star survey of local government vaccine mandates. Some civil servants should get vaccinated. Others may opt for regular testing instead. Yet others only face incentives to protect themselves and the public.
Dr. Isaac Bogoch, a Toronto infectious disease expert and member of Ontario’s Vaccine Task Force, said the change in regulations should not reduce the effectiveness of the mandate.
“There is no silver bullet to end the pandemic,” he said. “But there is good data from different parts of the world which helps to boost vaccination rates and is important to create safe indoor spaces.
“There are differing perspectives among scientists and public health professionals on the specifications,” he said.
“Personally, I am fine that a negative rapid (COVID-19) test is required before people can enter a (workplace) environment, but there are exceptions. In health care, for example, you should be vaccinated given the risk.”
While union objections to the mandate are a factor in differing responses, vaccination requirements are not as politicized or controversial here as in some parts of the United States.
Omar Khan, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto’s Institute of Biomedical Engineering, said this is because most Ontarians need to drive vaccination rates as high as possible to end a lingering pandemic driven by the delta version of COVID-19. accept to.
Employers are required by law to provide a safe workplace, and for many government offices, that include members of the public who want to ride a bus or pay water bills and be exposed to potentially fatal illness. do not come into contact.
“The government provides services and one of those services should not spread the virus,” Khan said.
Here are the vaccine regulations faced by various groups of public servants:
Mayor John Tory and city manager Chris Murray, who oversees more than 35,000 public servants, announced a stricter vaccine mandate in August, setting the stage for other municipalities and agencies at arm’s length.
The city mandate applies to active employees working directly for the city and does not cover the TTC or the Toronto Police.
The policy — which is not covered by federal or provincial law — requires all employees to disclose their vaccine status. Those who do not provide proof of two doses by the week of November 1 face compulsory training and a six-week suspension without pay. Employees will be terminated if vaccination is not done by December 13.
Unlike other mandates, the city is not allowing mandatory testing to enter the workplace as an option, nor is it creating accommodations – such as working from home – for workers who are denied the vaccine. Exemption will be given to employees for legitimate human rights claims or medical reasons.
So far, the city has seen the majority of public servants disclose their status – 95 percent of the active workforce. As of Friday, the city said 26,138 employees had been fully vaccinated — 89 percent of those exposed, well ahead of the provincial average and close to the 90 percent target set by Ontario. Another five percent were partially vaccinated and two percent opted not to disclose their status.
The roles of city employees range from garbage collectors to city planners. It is not yet clear whether the vaccine-related suspension or dismissal will have any effect on the city’s services.
“While the number of employees who are not fully vaccinated remains low, divisions have begun to consider plans to mitigate any service or staffing impacts as a result of this policy enforcement,” a city news release said. “
Whether or not the officer pulling you has been vaccinated against COVID-19 largely depends on where they work.
In recent weeks, individual police services have developed their own vaccine policies, after calls by the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police to establish guidelines in the province went unanswered. Currently, there are rules ranging from a no-vaccine requirement for officers facing absenteeism without pay or those facing dismissal because of not getting a job.
The Toronto Police, the largest municipal service in Canada, was among the first to announce that it would introduce a vaccine requirement for its 7,500 employees, a move sharply opposed by the Toronto Police Association.
Employees were first asked to share their vaccination status, resulting in 90 percent of employees responding (93.5 percent having been fully vaccinated). However, due to an arrangement with the Toronto Police Association, officers who refuse to disclose their status will face no consequences.
There are currently no plans to redeploy any employees who have not been vaccinated: the only limitation placed on non-vaccinated officers is that they cannot perform paid duty work or police gym facilities. cannot use. There are also no plans to have unvaccinated Toronto police workers take rapid COVID-19 tests before shifts.
This differs from other police services, including the Ontario Provincial Police, which said last week that any officer not vaccinated by November 1 would have to undergo a test every 48 hours before shifting.
In Hamilton, officials who have not disclosed their vaccination status must undergo rapid testing before reporting to work each week. The Waterloo Regional Police Service has a similar policy, which also states that Employees who do not comply with the service’s vaccine policy will be “put on leave of absence without pay until compliance is achieved.”
Last month, the London Police Service announced one of the strictest policies in the province: employees who fail to provide proof of vaccination by 15 October and who are not subject to approved accommodation can be reassigned Can be removed from active duty, placed on an unpaid leave of absence – or even terminated.
As of last week, there was no vaccination policy for officers in police services in the Durham and York areas. Services in the Ottawa, Thunder Bay, and Halton and Peel areas said they were developing policies.
TTC announces its own vaccine mandate shortly The mayor said municipal employees would need to take their shots.
Under the policy, with limited exceptions on human rights grounds, all 16,000 TTC employees must be fully vaccinated by October 30. But unlike the city, the transit agency has yet to determine how it will discipline employees who do not comply.
Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113, the largest TTC employees union, has filed a complaint against the policy. .
With workers slow to confirm their status, the TTC repeatedly pushed back the disclosure deadline. As of Tuesday, six days after the most recent target date, about 85 percent of its 16,000 employees had shared their position. Of these, 90 per cent were fully vaccinated.
However, the disclosure rate is low among the 8,000 members of the TTC’s operations division, at about 82 percent, which includes bus, streetcar and subway drivers.
If the agency were to follow the example of the City of Toronto and suspend employees who have not been vaccinated by October 30, it could lead to staff shortages that would require service cuts. This past weekend the agency began reaching out to retired operators to help fill the gap.
“We are taking every step possible and planning for multiple scenarios to ensure that we are able to deliver our planned/scheduled service,” said TTC spokesman Stuart Green.
Local 113 is prompting the TTC to emulate Hamilton, allowing its transit workers who don’t get their shots if they submit to frequent COVID-19 tests.
Metrolinux, which operates Go Transit, is taking a tough stance, saying that employees who are not fully vaccinated by November 1 will be suspended without pay, and eventually face dismissal. may have to.
About 95 percent of the agency’s more than 4,600 employees have certified their vaccination status, and about 97 percent of them are either fully vaccinated or say they intend to be by the deadline. Huh.