Hamilton may make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for city workers

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Published January 11, 2022 at 7:16 pm

Hamilton will likely give the 500-some city employees who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 until the end of May to get two jabs.

A report that will be presented at the general issues committee (GIC) meeting on Wednesday morning (Jan. 12, 9:30 a.m.) recommends that the City of Hamilton adopt mandatory vaccination. It contends that the current COVID-19 vax policy that includes rapid testing for unvaccinated employees has run its course, since “it is “difficult to confirm” that tests will be available from the provincial government. There is also “a significant impact on staff workload.”

The report recommends a May 31 hard deadline to provide proof of vaccination or a valid exemption, or be terminated. A special city council meeting is also scheduled for Wednesday, so a motion could be passed as soon as tomorrow.

The recommendations are as follows:

Hamilton passed its vaccination policy in August.

To date, about 93 per cent of Hamilton municipal employees are fully vaccinated. There are 474 employees who are participating in rapid testing, and another 68 who are unpaid leaves due to refusal to disclose their vax status or take part in testing.

The stock of tests provided by the province is running out. The city anticipates using about $80,000 in federal COVID-19 funds to buy tests from a private supplier that will then be given to the un-vaxxed employees.

“Hamilton has a larger number of unvaccinated employees compared to other municipalities,” the report states. “This may be attributed to the fact that our policy does not currently have a termination provision.”

Mississauga, Burlington, Halton Region and Peel Region also went with offering a testing option. Toronto, Durham Region and Niagara Region made vaccination mandatory. The son-in-law of Ontario Premier Doug Ford, Ernie Haynes, lost his job as a Toronto police officer as a result.

Burlington is also moving to mandatory vaccination (with valid exemptions). Its deadline for most employees is April 1, two months’ earlier than the one proposed for Hamilton. (Burlington firefighters have a March 1 deadline.)

The staff report, prepared by Lora Fontana and Matthew Sutcliffe of the human resources department, does offer city councillors alternative steps.

For instance, unvaccinated employees could be sent to another location. There is also the option of not proceeding with a vaccination requirement.

But the authors advise, “By doing so, the City would not be able to ensure the health and safety of its employees as well as the communities in which they serve. While allowing unvaccinated employees to attend the workplace without proof of a negative rapid antigen test could be permitted, it will inevitably result in a higher number of COVID related cases amongst our employee population as well as within the broader community.”

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