Consequences have been imposed this week on a small number of municipal employees who have chosen not to comply with the City of Red Deer’s vaccination mandate.
This week, the city’s human resources team is dealing with less than 10 employees, who under the non-compliance portion of the policy, could be subject to disciplinary action, including dismissal.
All city workers and volunteers were given a choice last fall: get fully vaccinated as of Nov. 29, or start paying for rapid antigen testing to stay on the job.
“A very small number of city staff chose not to submit immunization records or participate in rapid antigen testing and have been unable to work and unpaid since that time,” said a city spokesperson in a statement Wednesday.
The municipal mandate states employees who don’t comply with the staff inoculation policy against COVID-19, “including providing false or misleading information, may be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal.”
The city spokesperson stated those consequences “have been applied in those cases. This includes working with staff who may have applied for exemptions.”
She added no further details would be provided because of staff confidentiality.
Last month, Interim City Manager Tara Lodewyk told city council there was a 99 per cent compliance rate among staff. This means about 89 per cent of the city’s 1,463 workers were double vaccinated, while another 10 per cent opted to pay out of their own pockets for rapid antigen testing instead.
At that time, only a couple of city workers had chosen to retire or leave because of the policy.
Discussions had started with the remaining one per cent of staff about what their “next steps” will be, stated Lodewyk in December.
The city spokesperson stated on Wednesday that the service disruptions due to staff illness that the city reported on Tuesday have nothing to do with this small group of non-compliant workers.
“We can confirm that service disruptions announced for transit are in no way related to The City of Red Deer’s Employee Immunization Policy, and 100 per cent due to staff off for illness.
“With the inability to differentiate symptoms between a regular cold or flu and COVID, any staff member who experiences symptoms must stay home and follow city process as well as provincial isolation requirements.”
The City of Red Deer declined the Advocate’s request for a phone interview Wednesday, instead provided this emailed statement: “When developing the (vaccination) policy, we did our very best to honour and respect the preferences of individuals without compromising the health and safety of our organization and our community.
“We strived to work with all employees to navigate the complexities of this policy, but this was not possible in all cases. “
Tracy Bruce, the city’s human resources manager, stated in the email: “We proudly stand with our community as we …continue to do everything we can to respond to COVID-19 and contribute to the overall health and well-being of our community… (We) are thankful to the hundreds of city staff for their continued commitment to the health and safety of all, including adherence to this policy.”