The City of Hamilton is moving forward with its plans to terminate unvaccinated city staff.
On Wednesday, the city council voted to keep the policy in place despite a staff report that recommended scrapping the policy. Hamilton employees will have until May 31 to show proof of vaccination.
A staff report released in April recommended the city drop its vaccine mandate for staff. The report argued that the city’s policy should be in line with the province.
In February, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Kieran Moore said vaccine mandates have “served their purpose.” Ontario dropped its vaccine mandate in most settings in March.
According to CP24, a union representing public transit staff in the city is vowing to fight the mandate. According to Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 107, the city’s decision could cost taxpayers “$500,00 for unnecessary litigation.”
“It is irresponsible for this city council to cast a vote to terminate hard working employees, who have served on the front lines for the last two years during COVID-19, especially during times without any protection,” ATU Local 107 said in a statement.
“Those financial resources could have been better spent on upgrading air treatment equipment on our buses to better protect both workers and transit riders.”
According to the City of Hamilton, 94% of employees have been deemed fully vaccinated. Approximately 500 people could face termination because of the city’s vaccine mandate.
Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger defended the city’s decision following the council’s vote.
“Throughout the pandemic, the City of Hamilton has been steadfastly committed to supporting the health and safety of the broader community and providing a safe working environment for our employees, volunteers and students,” Eisenberger said.
“Ensuring high rates of vaccination remains one of the most important ways we can protect our community.”
Councilor John-Paul Danko, who also voted in favour of termination, said that those who had not yet been vaccinated had made a selfish decision.
“I think we do have to acknowledge that the people that are choosing not to be vaccinated, not because of the health reason, simply because they don’t want a vaccine,” said Danko, “I think we have to acknowledge the selfish entitlement that is involved there.”
“I am perfectly okay with putting the staff that are choosing not to be vaccinated on permanent unpaid leave indefinitely.”
Several cities in Canada continue to mandate vaccines for its employees, including Toronto.