15 unions reach COVID vaccine mandate deal with NYC, talks continue with outliers

Coronavirus update for NYC

Derick Waller Image
Friday, November 5, 2021
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Derick Waller reports on the FDNY and the vaccine mandate in New York City.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- New York City employees who don't want to get vaccinated have until Friday to file for a religious or medical exemption if they have any hope of staying on the payroll, this as the city announces more deals with unions representing municipal workers.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday that 15 unions, including city's largest, DC 37, have signed onto the deal.

The unions represent more than 100,000 city workers covered by this most recent mandate that took effect last week, but the police and fire unions are not included and are still trying to hash out their own deals.

Around 92% of city workers under the mandate are vaccinated, including 90% of EMS, 79% of firefighters, 85% of sanitation workers, and 85% of NYPD employees.

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On Thursday, the uniformed firefighters union president said they want the city to add back the option to get tested weekly, but they may be running out of negotiating time now that several other unions have already struck a deal.

Meanwhile, 77% of firefighters who are on the job are working longer hours with several multiple alarm fires just this week.

"The coverage has not been as catastrophic, but members are working twice as many hours as they should be," UFA President Andrew Ansboro said. "That's going on for members, the fire house, those who have complied, they're getting crushed."

The fire union points to a new OSHA rule announced Thursday requiring nearly 100 million U.S. workers to get vaccinated by January 4, or get tested weekly.

It applies to companies with more than 100 employees, and that testing option is not being extended to federal workers, contractors, or healthcare workers.

Under the agreement with the unions, employees who have applied for an exemption from the vaccine mandate for medical or religious reasons will receive an initial decision from the agency, then have the option to appeal that decision to an arbitrator who will decide the exemption based upon the same criteria used at the DOE.

Employees also retain the option of appealing to an internal city panel who would decide the exemption as required by applicable law.

The process ensures that those with appropriately justified medical or religious reasons have multiple options for their claim to be adjudicated.

Members of unions who have signed this agreement who filed an exemption request by 11/2 will remain on payroll with weekly testing, pending determination of the agency and any appeal.

An employee who files an exemption request between 11/3 and 11/5 will remain on payroll with weekly testing pending initial agency determination, but they will go on leave without pay if appealing that determination.

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The agreement confirms the city's right to place unvaccinated employees without an exemption on leave without pay but with health benefits effective November 1, or after denial of exemption request depending on the date exemption request was submitted.

Employees on leave without pay may choose to voluntarily separate from service and can maintain health insurance through June 30, 2022.

Employees on leave without pay may also elect to extend the leave until June 30, 2022, but they agree to separate voluntarily with waiver of right to challenge if not vaccinated by June 30, 2022.

In addition, any employee who gets vaccinated while on leave can return to work at their same work location.

As part of this agreement, the unions have agreed to withdraw litigation filed last month that challenged the city's right to implement the mandate.

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