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‘We’re continuing to watch’: N.B. cities looking at vaccine mandate for employees


A common law termination for cause may be more difficult to establish where an otherwise high performing employee with no past issues, can safely and productively perform their work from home. (Getty Images)
By Robin Grant, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

TELEGRAPH-JOURNAL

Two of the three largest municipalities in New Brunswick say they’ll continue to monitor the COVID-19 case count and conduct research before considering a vaccine mandate policy for municipal employees like the one announced last Thursday in Toronto.

Isabelle LeBlanc, director of communications with the City of Moncton, said the municipality is monitoring the situation around the pandemic, including the case count in the city, but it has not yet defined a course of action on mandating vaccines for its workers.

“Certainly, we’ve always been encouraging our employees to get vaccinated, and we’re watching the situation closely because the pandemic is obviously continuing to evolve,” LeBlanc said.

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“We have not determined a course of action at this time. We’re continuing to watch. We’re talking with other cities in the province, just maintaining open communication as we have throughout the pandemic.”

On Thursday, the City of Toronto announced a new mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy requiring all city employees to receive both vaccine doses.

“With the health and safety of residents, staff and the community key priorities for the City, this new policy demonstrates a commitment to taking every precaution to protect staff and visitors in City workplaces from COVID-19,” reads the release.

Under the policy, by Sept. 13, all members of the Toronto Public Service must disclose and provide proof of vaccination status.

The release goes on to say that staff who haven’t been vaccinated or who don’t disclose their vaccine status will be required to attend mandatory education on the benefits of the vaccines. Unvaccinated employees will then need to provide proof of the first dose no later than Sept. 30.

As of Oct. 30, all staff with the City of Toronto must have received their first and second doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Fredericton Mayor Kate Rogers said the city is actively gathering information about what a vaccine mandate would mean for employees.

“There’s just lots that needs to be taken into account,” she said. “It seems like a simple consideration just to say everyone needs to be double vaccinated, but there’s lots of things that need to be taken into account.

“There are some things that need to be guided through Public Health — for instance, who is eligible to not be vaccinated for various medical reasons or if they aren’t able to be vaccinated,” Rogers continued. “There are so many variables that need to be considered.”

Smaller municipalities are also largely taking a wait-and-see approach. Mary Savage, the City of Miramichi’s human resources director, said Friday the potential for vaccination requirements for municipal employees is on her department’s radar, but staff are still reviewing the issue and need to discuss it with city council.

Sussex council is also expected to discuss mandatory vaccinations in the near future. Mayor Marc Thorne said as of several weeks ago, there were some staff members who were not yet vaccinated, but he does not know if that remains the case today, or if they have received their shots since then.

When council does eventually hold discussions on a possible vaccine mandate for staff, Thorne said they will have to balance health and safety with what repercussions could come from it.

“If the Town of Sussex chooses to make (vaccination) mandatory, and we have staff who are not by that point vaccinated, one has to recognize that you could potentially lose those employees, they may choose to resign,” he said. “We may still implement it, but that’s the decision that has to be considered.”

On Thursday, the New Brunswick government announced it will require new employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and its current employees to either have be vaccinated or get tested regularly.

Finance and Treasury Board spokesperson Melanie Sivret said a memo was sent to staff to alert them to the new rule.

“Details are still being finalized at this time,” she said.

“The effective date for this new policy will be communicated once details for medical exemptions, the testing requirements and the process for providing proof of vaccination are confirmed in consultation with Public Health.”

In a news release, the province also stated that “vaccination will also be a condition of employment for new hires,” under the policy agreed to by the cabinet.

Saint John Mayor Donna Reardon admitted she doesn’t know whether the municipality has the authority to mandate a vaccine policy for employees after more than 17 months of following Public Health regulations.

“In New Brunswick, municipalities are a creature of the province, and we get our abilities to do what we can do by the province,” she said. “I would think it would come from the province, but that’s not something I’ve looked into at all.”

She explained that during the coronavirus pandemic the city has followed Public Health regulations and hasn’t considered mandating vaccines as a policy.

“Not all municipal workers are in contact with the public. However, they are in contact with each other and there’s still that requirement to provide a safe working environment, so it is an interesting question but isn’t something that we’ve contemplated thus far as we’ve sort of been watching this roll out,” Reardon said.

She added the policy might be something the city should consider if it has the authority to do so.

CUPE Local 18 president Chris Patterson said since the policy hasn’t been discussed by the City of Saint John, he doesn’t have a position on it. The union local represents outside workers employed by the City of Saint John.

“Personally, I think people’s medical information, you shouldn’t have to share your medical information. It’s private information,” Patterson said. “Mandatory testing, I don’t have an issue with that.”

Simon Ouellette, communications representative with CUPE New Brunswick, said while the union has encouraged municipal workers to get vaccinated, due to the complicated nature of a policy, CUPE wouldn’t comment until a policy is released.

Two of the three largest municipalities in the province say they’ll continue to monitor the COVID-19 case count and conduct research before considering a vaccine mandate policy for municipal employees like the one announced Thursday in Toronto.

Isabelle LeBlanc, director of communications with the City of Moncton, said the municipality is monitoring the situation around the pandemic, including the case count in the city, but it has not yet defined a course of action on mandating vaccines for its workers.

“Certainly, we’ve always been encouraging our employees to get vaccinated, and we’re watching the situation closely because the pandemic is obviously continuing to evolve,” LeBlanc said.

“We have not determined a course of action at this time. We’re continuing to watch. We’re talking with other cities in the province, just maintaining open communication as we have throughout the pandemic.”

On Thursday, the City of Toronto announced a new mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy requiring all city employees to receive both vaccine doses.

“With the health and safety of residents, staff and the community key priorities for the City, this new policy demonstrates a commitment to taking every precaution to protect staff and visitors in City workplaces from COVID-19,” reads the release.

Under the policy, by Sept. 13, all members of the Toronto Public Service must disclose and provide proof of vaccination status.

The release goes on to say that staff who haven’t been vaccinated or who don’t disclose their vaccine status will be required to attend mandatory education on the benefits of the vaccines. Unvaccinated employees will then need to provide proof of the first dose no later than Sept. 30.

As of Oct. 30, all staff with the City of Toronto must have received their first and second doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Fredericton Mayor Kate Rogers said the city is actively gathering information about what a vaccine mandate would mean for employees.

“There’s just lots that needs to be taken into account,” she said. “It seems like a simple consideration just to say everyone needs to be double vaccinated, but there’s lots of things that need to be taken into account.

“There are some things that need to be guided through Public Health — for instance, who is eligible to not be vaccinated for various medical reasons or if they aren’t able to be vaccinated,” Rogers continued. “There are so many variables that need to be considered.”

Smaller municipalities are also largely taking a wait-and-see approach. Mary Savage, the City of Miramichi’s human resources director, said Friday the potential for vaccination requirements for municipal employees is on her department’s radar, but staff are still reviewing the issue and need to discuss it with city council.

Sussex council is also expected to discuss mandatory vaccinations in the near future. Mayor Marc Thorne said as of several weeks ago, there were some staff members who were not yet vaccinated, but he does not know if that remains the case today, or if they have received their shots since then.

When council does eventually hold discussions on a possible vaccine mandate for staff, Thorne said they will have to balance health and safety with what repercussions could come from it.

“If the Town of Sussex chooses to make 1/8vaccination 3/8 mandatory, and we have staff who are not by that point vaccinated, one has to recognize that you could potentially lose those employees, they may choose to resign,” he said. “We may still implement it, but that’s the decision that has to be considered.”

On Thursday, the New Brunswick government announced it will require new employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and its current employees to either have be vaccinated or get tested regularly.

Finance and Treasury Board spokesperson Melanie Sivret said a memo was sent to staff to alert them to the new rule.

“Details are still being finalized at this time,” she said.

“The effective date for this new policy will be communicated once details for medical exemptions, the testing requirements and the process for providing proof of vaccination are confirmed in consultation with Public Health.”

In a news release, the province also stated that “vaccination will also be a condition of employment for new hires,” under the policy agreed to by the cabinet.

Saint John Mayor Donna Reardon admitted she doesn’t know whether the municipality has the authority to mandate a vaccine policy for employees after more than 17 months of following Public Health regulations.

“In New Brunswick, municipalities are a creature of the province, and we get our abilities to do what we can do by the province,” she said. “I would think it would come from the province, but that’s not something I’ve looked into at all.”

She explained that during the coronavirus pandemic the city has followed Public Health regulations and hasn’t considered mandating vaccines as a policy.

“Not all municipal workers are in contact with the public. However, they are in contact with each other and there’s still that requirement to provide a safe working environment, so it is an interesting question but isn’t something that we’ve contemplated thus far as we’ve sort of been watching this roll out,” Reardon said.

She added the policy might be something the city should consider if it has the authority to do so.

CUPE Local 18 president Chris Patterson said since the policy hasn’t been discussed by the City of Saint John, he doesn’t have a position on it. The union local represents outside workers employed by the City of Saint John.

“Personally, I think people’s medical information, you shouldn’t have to share your medical information. It’s private information,” Patterson said. “Mandatory testing, I don’t have an issue with that.”

Simon Ouellette, communications representative with CUPE New Brunswick, said while the union has encouraged municipal workers to get vaccinated, due to the complicated nature of a policy, CUPE wouldn’t comment until a policy is released.

With files from Savannah Awde, Justin Samanski-Langille and Nathan DeLong