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9,000 New York workers on unpaid vacation as COVID-19 vaccine mandate goes into effect

9,000 New York workers on unpaid vacation as COVID-19 vaccine mandate goes into effect

  • November 2, 2021

(NEW YORK) – Approximately 9,000 New York City municipal employees have been given unpaid leave for refusing to comply with a COVID-19 vaccine mandate that went into effect Monday, and thousands of city firefighters have called in sick in protest of the request , Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

About 9 out of 10 city workers covered by the mandate have been vaccinated and there have been no disruptions in city services due to staff shortages, de Blasio told reporters at his daily news conference. New York has more than 300,000 city employees.

The fire stations remained open, but 18 of the department’s 350 units were out of order and “many units are understaffed,” said fire chief Daniel Nigro. Plumbing workers carried out an additional pickup on Sunday to make sure rubbish didn’t pile up, the mayor said.
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“I want to thank everyone who was vaccinated,” said de Blasio. “Thank you for getting vaccinated. Thank you for doing the right thing. Thank you for helping us. “

City officials have challenged bitter opposition from a minority of workers on a number of public safety concerns, including police officers and firefighters, and a pending legal challenge to the mandate by the city’s largest police union.

As of Sunday, one in four uniformed firefighters in the city had still not received the required first dose of the vaccine. About 1 in 6 police officers and 1 in 6 plumbing workers were still unvaccinated.

Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said the vast majority of the unvaccinated workers in his department have requested religious or medical exemptions from the vaccination mandate. So far, only 34 police officers and 40 plainclothes police officers have been given unpaid leave, he said.

More than 3,500 city workers were vaccinated over the weekend. That was after 5 p.m. Friday to receive a $ 500 bonus for showing they had received a dose of the vaccine but before they were to be taken on unpaid leave.

About 12,000 workers have applied for religious or medical exemptions. You can stay on the job while city officials review these applications.

About 2,300 firefighters were sick, up from typically about 1,000 a day in what appeared to be a protest against the vaccine mandate, according to Nigro. The fire department infirmary usually sees around 200 people a day, Nigro said. For the past week it has been 700 a day, most of them unvaccinated.

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“I asked her to reconsider this, to remember her oath of office,” said Nigro. “It affects not only the people they serve, but also their brothers and sisters in the department who are forced to fill their positions.”

De Blasio said the city is watching to see if the fire service union is coordinating sick leave and taking them to court if there is evidence of an illegal strike. He said firefighters found to be faking illness are “effectively AWOL” and will face the discipline of the internal department.

“People get into trouble really quickly when people don’t show up to do their job, when they’re not really sick,” said de Blasio. “And we have every reason to believe that there are many people who claim to be sick but who are not. It is not acceptable. “

City officials said they were prepared for potential staff shortages and were demanding vaccinated workers to work overtime.

The head of the union representing the New York firefighters who fought the vaccination mandate warned that public safety could be at risk. The fire brigade agreed to take up to 20% of their fire brigades out of service and to have 20% fewer ambulances in use.

“We are here today because of a mandate placed on not only our members, but all New York City employees, to have nine days to make a life-changing decision about their career, or whether or not they will take it on Vaccine, ”said Andrew Ansbro, President of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, at an early morning press conference.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city’s top public safety priority is stopping the spread of COVID-19, which continues to kill a handful of people in the city every day.

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