Northeastern communities roll out vaccine policies for municipal workers
Proof of COVID-19 vaccination is soon to be the new normal across Ontario and for some of the major hubs in the northeast region, it’s key to continued employment.
“The City of Greater Sudbury is requiring employees -- basically people who attend the workplace, and so that would include councillors and staff and volunteers who come into the building to do work for the city -- to be vaccinated by Nov. 15,” said Chief Administrative Officer Ed Archer.
However, the new policy has prompted the union that represents workers in the city -- CUPE 4705 -- to speak out.
"CUPE 4705 is not against vaccinations, but we are deeply concerned with the lack of reasonable alternatives offered to our members that choose not to be vaccinated, such as rapid testing, to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19," the union said in a statement
However, Archer said it’s non-negotiable.
"We don’t anticipate testing as an alternative to a vaccine,” he said. “Testing isn’t a method for controlling the illness and so our preference is to mitigate the risk and that’s why we promote and expect our employees to be vaccinated."
It all comes down to safety, Archer said.
“We aren’t interested in compromising on safety and we expect that this policy will maximize safety for both our employees and for the people that visit our facilities.”
So far across the region, North Bay is the only major hub without a vaccine policy in place. Officials said it's expected to go in front of council by the end of the month.
Meanwhile, Timmins released its policy Tuesday morning, saying in part “that unless medically exempt the workplace vaccination policy requires proof of full vaccination by the end of business day on Friday, Oct. 1.”
Employees who only have one dose will need to complete rapid testing twice per week until they are fully vaccinated against the virus.
Some employees have options
In Sault Ste. Marie, its policy went before council on Sept. 9. However, unlike Sudbury and Timmins, city employees have options.
“Any staff who are not fully vaccinated will need to comply with certain revisions,” said Sault Ste. Marie CAO Malcom White.
“For those staff who aren’t fully vaccinated but are either in the process -- maybe they’ve received one dose or they intend to get vaccinated -- they will need to, if they are working on site and working at all, they will need to provide testing through local pharmacies antigen testing and provide negative results.”
White said the cost of those tests will be covered for six weeks, since that is how long it takes to get fully vaccinated. After that, employees are on their own.
“We don’t see the testing as being a long-term solution," he said. "As we note in the policy, this is a rapidly evolving area and we certainly see the policy being updated frequently.”
Officials across the region said the policies were crafted following the guidance and mandates set by the province.