The City of Windsor is making contingency plans because hundreds of its staff could soon be off the job — unless they declare their COVID-19 vaccination status.
As of Wednesday, 22 per cent of municipal employees have yet to submit proof of COVID-19 vaccination, despite a deadline to do so before Nov. 15.
The city said in a media release on Wednesday that 78 per cent of staff are in compliance with the policy, which mandates that all staff must be vaccinated — or face suspension without pay — unless they are granted an exemption.
Jason Reynar, Windsor's chief administrative officer, said he's hopeful that the actual percentage of employees affected will be much lower.
But the city is prepared to deliver services with fewer employees, he said. In the event that COVID-19 sidelines staff, each department already has plans for how to operate with up to 20 per cent fewer people.
"Throughout the pandemic we've had to be ready for the contingency that we have COVID outbreaks," he said.
City has more than 3,000 staff
The city has a workforce of more than 3,000 employees, and so based on that number, somewhere in the ballpark of 660 staff were not in compliance with the policy as of Wednesday.
Reynar said he's hoping that it's just a matter of people not getting around to submitting their documentation, and numbers have been climbing in recent days. Staff have been given reminders and education surrounding COVID-19 vaccination.
"We appreciate that people are busy and they've got busy work lives and personal lives and so we understand that it takes time to get the documentation into the database," Reynar said.
Only a handful of staff members — Reynar estimates it's fewer than a dozen — have been granted exemptions to the policy under approved grounds.
The policy was adopted by council in September. Similar mandates are in effect at the County of Essex, Towns of Tecumseh, LaSalle, Amherstburg, Kingsville, local hospitals and the Stellantis Windsor Assembly Plant.
The rules apply to employees, council, as well as contractors and volunteers accessing indoor city facilities.
"As leaders, each of my council colleagues as well as the city's corporate leadership team have already been fully vaccinated, and now we're requiring staff to do the same for the good of our community," Mayor Drew Dilkens said in statement at that time.
Reymar explained that the policy only goes as far as mandating an indefinite unpaid leave for those not in compliance.
It will be up to City Council to determine what the next steps are for employees who stick with their decision to not to be vaccinated.
"We haven't made that decision yet but we'll be speaking to council about what those options might be," he said.