NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- New York City announced agreements Thursday with nine unions over the city's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all municipal employees, including on exemption requests and leave policies.
The nine unions represent 88,000 of the 160,000 city employees affected by this most recent mandate.
The four biggest unions -- DC 37, Teamsters Local 237, Uniformed Sanitationmen's Association Local 831, and SEIU Local 300 -- collectively represent approximately 75,000 employees, excluding members employed at the Department of Education or NYC Health+Hospitals.
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.
Without a mandate in effect, the Department of Corrections remains at 63% vaccinated.
"Vaccinations are critical to our recovery and our city workforce is leading the way," Mayor Bill de Blasio said. "92% of city employees have stepped up and gotten vaccinated, and this agreement ensures a fair process for those seeking exemptions. Thank you to these unions for working with us to keep New Yorkers safe."
Under the agreement, as at the DOE, 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.
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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