City goes back on plan, now providing COVID test kits to unvaccinated employees

The City of Calgary has backed away from its plan to require its employees who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 to pay for their own rapid testing.

The mayor is blaming the change in direction on the Calgary Police Service, which has secured its own supply of rapid test kits from the provincial government.

Mayor Jyoti Gondek says CPS’ decision created demands from civic unions that their members should also be provided kits at no charge, rather than paying for them at local pharmacies.

“The city has now agreed that it will be part of our policy to continue paying for testing if people are not fully vaccinated,” she said.

At a news conference Wednesday, Gondek was visibly frustrated that the city will continue providing test kits to an estimated 500 employees who are not vaccinated.

Province supplied kits

Gondek pointed to 99 per cent of eligible people in northeast Calgary who have gotten vaccinated against COVID, while an estimated 500 city employees have yet to roll up their sleeves.

“Those folks did their part and you’re telling me that there’s a few people — a very small percentage of the population — that doesn’t want to do anything and we’ll reward them by paying for their testing? Unacceptable,” Gondek said.

Last month, the city and CPS started providing employees who weren’t vaccinated with home testing kits.

The provincial government gave the city 125,000 test kits for its employees.

But the city intended to cut off access to the testing kits on Dec. 1.  

Instead, unvaccinated employees would have to go to local pharmacies twice a week for approved tests and report the results.

Those who do not report their test results would be put on leave without pay for 30 days. After that, they will face the city’s disciplinary process if they remain unvaccinated.

There are currently 59 employees on leave.

According to the police, as part of the government’s Rapid Testing Program, essential services were given the opportunity to apply for free kits until March 2022.

CPS applied for the program, requesting 2,280 kits per month until March.

The province approved the request this week.

The kits will be sent in two weeks so until then, unvaccinated CPS employees, which represent seven per cent of staff, will have to pay for their own tests through pharmacies.

Currently, more than 90 per cent of the staff at the city and police are double vaccinated, says the mayor.

The city estimates it has enough test kits on hand to continue supplying them to unvaccinated employees for several more months.

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