Firefighters' union expresses concerns with city vaccination policy

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Doug McLennan, president of the local firefighters association, says one of his concerns is the timeline the City of Ottawa has set for its workers to be fully vaccinated. (CBC - image credit)
Doug McLennan, president of the local firefighters association, says one of his concerns is the timeline the City of Ottawa has set for its workers to be fully vaccinated. (CBC - image credit)

While the city of Ottawa has announced it will require employees to be fully vaccinated, at least one union head has concerns — and still wants to see more details.

Doug McLennan, president of the Ottawa Professional Firefighters Association, said his two major issues are the tight timeline for members to get their first dose and the lack of accommodation for anything besides medical exemptions.

"We're here to basically look and make sure that there's no violation of our collective agreement, there's no violation of the law [and] no violation of our members' human rights," said McLennan, whose local includes nearly 1,000 members.

The policy, announced in a memo from city manager Steve Kanellakos, will come into effect Tuesday.

Staff, volunteers, students and contractors are expected to get their first dose by Sept. 15 and be fully immunized by the start of November.

Employees who remain unvaccinated will have to go on vacation, take a leave of absence or be dismissed. Only a doctor or a nurse practitioner can approve an unvaccinated employee to keep working.

McLennan said he doesn't know the vaccination rates among firefighters, but estimates they're between 80 to 90 per cent, in line with other workplaces.

The association will try to develop strategies for members who are affected by the policy, he said.

"We want to make sure the privacy concerns of our members are addressed and taken care of by the city," said McLennan.

Vaccine mandates work, says councillor

City council, meanwhile, is set to vote Wednesday on whether to apply the policy to themselves as well.

Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper said he fully supports mandatory vaccination, and that council members need to lead by example.

"We all have the right to a safe workplace," Leiper said. "And I think residents have the right to know that their interactions with the city are also as safe as possible."

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