Thirty-nine Richmond city staff, including nine Richmond fire fighters, refused to comply with a COVID-19 vaccine mandate by the deadline of Dec. 20, according to arbitration documents.
Three city unions, which include the fire fighters, inside workers and outside workers, have filed grievances with the city for its vaccine mandate. The grievances will go to arbitration in March.
Richmond city council made the decision in October to order both staff and council members to show proof of vaccination, except for those who had a medical exemption.
Those who didn’t comply by Dec. 20 were put on unpaid leave.
In the meantime, the unions were asking an arbitrator to stay the vaccine mandate – allowing them to continue working – until it went to arbitration. However, this was denied by the arbitrator.
As reported by the Richmond News earlier this week, when asked about compliance numbers, the city said 98 per cent of its 2,100 regular staff members had complied with the vaccine mandate.
The city wouldn’t, however, specify the exact number or which departments the unvaccinated staff members were in, citing privacy.
City spokesperson Clay Adams said the vaccine mandate wasn’t meant as punishment, rather it was meant to encourage city staff to get vaccinated.
“We are pleased that the overwhelming majority of staff supported the need for vaccination and its value in protecting the safety and well-being of themselves, their colleagues and the community,” said Adams in a statement.
He added city services haven’t been impacted because of staff non-compliance with the vaccine mandate.
The city wouldn’t say how many COVID-19 cases there were among fire fighters, but Adams clarified Richmond Fire Rescue (RFR) is “not impacted to a level where meeting emergency needs are compromised.”
“The high vaccination rate among RFR and city staff generally is reducing any impact of COVID exposures and the community can rest assured that we have RFR staffing in place to address emergency responses,” he added.
There are 253 members of the Richmond local of the International Professional Firefighters Association in total.
Two Richmond RCMP officers were put on unpaid leave in the fall after a vaccine mandate was put in place for all federal employees.