Newark firefighters, police unions angry after COVID vaccine mandate upheld

Coronavirus Update New Jersey

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Tuesday, September 28, 2021
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Anthony Johnson has more on the opposition to Newark's vaccine mandate.

NEWARK, New Jersey (WABC) -- Unions representing firefighters and police officers in Newark are angry over the requirement to get the COVID-19 vaccine after a New Jersey appeals court upheld the city's mandate for municipal employees.

The unions filed a complaint against Newark alleging unfair labor practices, and a state public employment commission paused the order this month and ruled the mandate was lawful but that the city had to negotiate terms with the unions.

In Monday's ruling, however, the appeals court ruled the city has is not required to engage in negotiations with the unions over the policy.

RELATED | Facing suspension or termination, more NY health care workers get COVID vaccine

Requiring negotiations "impermissibly interferes with the city's managerial prerogative to protect the health and safety of all its employees and the city residents with whom those employees come into contact," the court wrote.

Kevin McGovern, an attorney for Teamsters Local 97, a union representing university employees, said the court erred by not requiring negotiations that would have clarified the mandate's terms of discipline.

"The order contained so many nuances that are open to interpretation," he said. "It's going to produce some unduly harsh results, even for some people who try to comply with the order."

Still, there are reports that the unions are in preliminary talks with the city about how to implement the mandate.

A protest promoted online and on a website associated with The Proud Boys was set to be held Tuesday evening outside the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, site of the first debate between Governor Phil Murphy and Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli, but it was canceled as word got out that they are sitting down to talk to the city about the mandate.

The unions were also told their gathering would not be as close to NJPAC as they'd have liked.

RELATED | New vaccination deadline set for NYC school staff amid protests

Mayor Ras Baraka issued the executive order last month requiring that employees show proof of full vaccination within 30 days or face discipline up to termination.

That goes beyond a recent statewide order issued by Gov. Phil Murphy that require state employees and teachers to be vaccinated by mid-October or undergo weekly testing.

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