A new policy from the Town of The Blue Mountains (TBM) requires town employees to disclose their COVID-19 vaccination status to human resources by Oct. 28.
Failure to become fully vaccinated by Nov. 11 will result in staff submitting to regular COVID-19 antigen tests, at least twice per week for full-time employees.
The testing measures apply to staff with approved medical exemptions and those who failed to disclose their vaccination status alike.
A negative test will be required to access town facilities.
Staff who refuse vaccination without a medical exemption will be required to pay for the antigen tests themselves.
Staff with medical exemptions must prove they are exempt by providing evidence from a nurse or physician, but the cost of their antigen tests will be covered by the town.
Those who voluntarily refuse vaccination will also be required to complete an education program that outlines how vaccines work, their safety, the benefits of vaccination, the hazards of remaining unvaccinated, and the possible side effects of vaccination.
Staff who fail to follow these measures may face disciplinary action.
“Staff who do not comply with this vaccination policy may be subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination in accordance with all applicable legislation, collective agreements, and the Town’s Progressive Discipline policy,” the policy states.
Council discussed the policy at the Oct. 4 meeting.
Council pointed out that town staff are not technically required to be fully vaccinated under the policy, leaving the possibility for fully vaccinated members of the public to interact with unvaccinated staff members in town facilities.
“Is there not a way we can insist that anybody who has not been fully vaccinated is not interacting with the public?” asked Deputy Mayor Rob Potter.
“We do need to respect the rights of individuals and employment standards,” answered Sarah Traynor the town's health and safety/HR coordinator.
The policy was reviewed and endorsed by the Grey Bruce Health Unit, and councillor Rob Sampson argued that stricter measures – such as sequestering unvaccinated employees or pursuing a stricter policy – was unnecessary.
“I’m certainly not an expert in this field and we have to rely upon these people to provide us that advice as to what works and what they would recommend from a public health perspective,” he said.
Councillor Hope argued that the town should look at a stricter policy because of the number of seniors in TBM.
“We’ve got a population that has double the size of the average seniors than any other municipality in Ontario,” she said. “They are going to assume that they’re dealing with a staff member that is doubly vaccinated, and if we’re going to pursue this policy we need to make that clear that they’re taking that risk.”
A review of the policy is scheduled for Dec. 2021, but in light of the issues raised, council voted to recommend it undergoes review on a monthly basis.
Greg McGrath-Goudie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CollingwoodToday.ca