City of Winnipeg to require COVID-19 vaccination for staff who work regularly with public

The City of Winnipeg will require all staff who have ongoing direct contact with the public to be fully vaccinated.

The vaccine requirement will apply to those working in public safety, community protection, recreation services, public transportation and public-facing customer service roles, a Tuesday news release from the city says. 

Staff who work in these positions are expected to be fully vaccinated by Nov. 15, the news release says.

The city says they must have their first shot by Sept. 30 and their second dose by Oct. 28. Allowing for two weeks for the second dose to become fully effective, that means all employees would be considered fully vaccinated by Nov. 11.

“We will need time to gather proof of immunization, which is why Nov. 15 was selected as the date in which staff who work in identified positions will be required to be fully vaccinated,” a city spokesperson said in an email to CBC.

The municipality will begin asking for vaccine status from affected employees starting next week.

The city will look into options for staff who are not vaccinated, including frequent COVID-19 testing or reassignment to a role that does not involve contact with the public, Michael Jack, the city’s chief administrative officer, said at a news conference Tuesday. 

The city will also set up mobile vaccination clinics for employees who haven’t yet got their shots to make it easier for them to do so. 

All employees were notified about the requirement Tuesday, Jack said. 

The city has been looking into a vaccination requirement for its staff since vaccines became available in Manitoba, and consulted with unions and the province in the process, he said.

“Implementing this vaccine requirement was not a decision we took lightly.”

Jack said the city doesn’t know how many of its nearly 10,000 employees are not yet vaccinated. 

The provincial government issued its own vaccine mandate for many public-facing employees last month, including teachers, health-care workers and child-care workers. 

Though city officials were weighing a vaccine mandate for months, they were waiting to see if the province’s mandate would cover city employees as well, said Mayor Brian Bowman.

Unions weigh in

Last month, United Fire Fighters of Winnipeg president Alex Forrest said his union strongly supports a vaccine mandate, especially since firefighters are in close contact with people in their day-to-day work. 

Romeo Ignacio of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1505, which represents many Winnipeg Transit employees, says generally his union supports the mandate as well. 

“The majority of our members are cognizant of the fact that this is helping them, especially because they are public-facing. They need the protection,” he said.

“It’s just one layer of protection that we think will help move us forward to getting past COVID-19.”

However, some unvaccinated members are worried that they could lose their jobs,the ATU president said. The union is working with the city on how to deal with those members on a case-by-case basis, he said.

“There’s just no playbook for this one.”

Based on a recent survey, Ignacio said he estimates about 90 per cent of transit workers the union represents are already vaccinated. 

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