For City of Toronto employees, it still looks like it’s going to be either a scary Christmas or an unhappy New Year.
However, a decision by the city Friday delaying the firing date for municipal employees, firefighters and paramedics until after Christmas is being seen as either a two-week stay of execution or two more weeks of worry.
Moving the date came as a surprise.
An internal “Mandatory Vaccination Policy Deadline Extension” communications said “as a result of recent direction from the Ministry of Health, which revised the recommended second dose interval to eight weeks for Moderna and Pfizer0BioNTech vaccines, vaccination status review meetings for those who disclose they received one dose of COVID-19 vaccine by October 31 will now start the week of January 2, 2022 to allow all staff at least eight weeks from the time of their first dose to receive their second dose.”
Staff who are currently suspended for non-compliance with the mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy will also remain suspended until the week of Jan. 2 at which point they will be “terminated for cause if they are not compliant with the policy (previously the deadline was Dec. 13).”
One City of Toronto employee said: “This doesn’t make our Christmas any happier. Now we won’t be fired two weeks before Christmas but two weeks after.”
The city does not deny this, saying “following their vaccination status review meeting during the week of January 2, employees who are found not compliant with the policy will have their employment terminated for cause. There will be no period of suspension.”
The only positive is the extra weeks allow time for new ideas or to receive a favourable ruling stemming from grievance hearings. Sources tell me labour unions and city managers are working long hours behind the scenes on this. This extension announcement does not, as of yet, include Toronto Police or the TTC. But sources say it very well could.
Pushing the firing deadline does offer a glimmer of hope for varying solutions, including rapid testing or other work arrangements.
With health authorities hinting for third dose expansion to fight breakthrough COVID-19 infections, and with more restrictions for flights from abroad coming, the playing surface changes daily. No one should be let go over a vaccine that was only introduced this year.
When things are so up in the air, firings should be put on hold for more than two weeks. Instead, city staff are on a proverbial spider web waiting for elimination while Mayor John Tory celebrates more freedoms by handing a key to the city to Gordon Lightfoot on stage at Massey Hall.
The mayor and the doctors have worked hard to get most people vaccinated but somebody has to tell them that changing firing dates around like this is nothing more than cruel. These city staffers are our people after all. Their families matter and other GTA municipalities are not doing this.
Meanwhile, several on WSIB benefits say the city is showing good will by reversing earlier decisions and honouring their claims. Also, sources say, the city and labour leaders are in constant talks.
“The city continues to explore ways to resolve the grievances filed (like any other grievance), while respecting the City’s vaccination policy,” said city spokesperson Brad Ross. “Our objective is 100% compliance with the policy.”