Wed. Dec 1st, 2021

City of Toronto employees now have until Friday to disclose their vaccination status to their employer, after receiving an extension from the original Monday deadline.

As of Monday, city spokesman Brad Ross told Star that more than half of the more than 37,000 workers had answered, the vast majority saying they were fully vaccinated against the virus.

Others need extra time to respond because some of them do not work in offices or have access to city e-mail – “a primary way to communicate with staff,” about the requirement, he said.

“Supervisors will be out this week reminding everyone of the need to fill out the form,” Ross said in an email. “They can use a personal device. It’s easy and fast.”

Last month, Toronto announced that vaccinations are mandatory for city staff, with limited exceptions for people who can prove health or human rights reasons.

Those who just do not want a vaccine, or who have not responded by Friday, should attend mandatory training on the benefits of vaccination against the virus.

The city’s arm’s length agencies, including the TTC and the Toronto Police Service, quickly followed suit with their own vaccine mandates.

Unvaccinated city staff will be required to provide proof of first dose by 30 September and proof of second dose by 30 October. Those who refuse to be vaccinated or to provide evidence will be punished for violating an urban policy.

City officials will not specify possible sanctions, saying they hope they are not necessary. However, they have not ruled out suspending or firing unvaccinated workers, citing the risk of infecting colleagues or members of the public with the highly contagious COVID-19 Delta variant.

Of the “more than half” of city workers who had responded on Monday, about 94 percent indicated they are fully vaccinated, Ross said, adding that exact figures will be released later.

Dave Mitchell, president of CUPE Local 79, which represents about 20,000 cities “domestic workers,” said the vaccination requirement was “announced with very short timelines, and so of course we are pleased that an extension has been granted.

“This extension will allow some of our members to get their second vaccine dose or proper documentation should they need a home,” Mitchell said in an email.

The unions for transit workers and Toronto police personnel object to the vaccination requirements.

The Star reported last Friday that police officers had already been told they would not be punished for ignoring Monday’s deadline.

Toronto Mayor John Tory, speaking at an unrelated press conference Monday morning, told reporters that extensions do not mean the city is withdrawing from its commitment to a fully vaccinated workforce.

“We are firm on what our policy is, but we are also eager to maintain the good partnership with our employees that we have had all along,” Tory said.

“There are no options that are off the table when it comes to people who absolutely refuse, after a period of time and education, to do the right thing and be vaccinated without a medical exemption.”

David Rider is the bureau chief of Star’s City Hall and a reporter covering town hall and municipal politics. Follow him on Twitter: @dmrider
Jennifer Pagliaro is a Toronto-based reporter covering City Hall and municipal politics for Star. Follow her on Twitter: @jpgs

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