Cape Breton regional councilors rescinded an administrative protocol and voted in favor of a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy for municipal workers.
The new policy, approved on Tuesday, requires staff to be fully immunized by Dec.31, or face unpaid leave and possibly dismissal.
Deputy Mayor Earlene MacMullin said an employee who does not want the vaccine challenged his authority to make the decision.
MacMullin said that while she has no previous healthcare experience, she supports the recommendations of those working in the field.
“It’s tough, but we made this decision as a council based on what we think is best for the majority,” MacMullin said.
“I just hope people take this into account and understand that it is a very mature decision on the part of people who are not professionals in a certain field to take the advice of those who are.”
In September, just before the province began lifting public health restrictions, CBRM Executive Director Marie Walsh said she had the authority to establish workplace protocols and plans to implement one that would encourage employee vaccination.
But Walsh said no one would be fired for refusing.
At the time, Mayor Amanda McDougall agreed and said unvaccinated CBRM staff would be subject to alternative measures, such as continued masking and testing.
But in October, councilors asked staff to bring back a stricter policy requiring employees to be vaccinated after several council members said they received calls from residents demanding a mandatory policy.
Last month, council learned that 36 of the city’s 800 or so employees were not fully immunized.
On Tuesday, CBRM’s director of human resources, Deanna Evely, said that number is now around 20, and about half of them have had their first stroke.
Com. Cyril MacDonald said it was not easy to decide between public safety and individual medical choices, and the implementation of a mandatory policy might be enough to sway the remaining holdouts.
“It’s a tough decision, but I think at the end of the day we have to protect the greater good,” he said.
Derogations will be authorized
According to the policy, staff granted medical, religious or other exemptions under human rights law will benefit from working accommodations, such as the requirement to wear a mask and submit to tests. regular.
Those who refuse but do not have a legitimate exemption will be placed on unpaid leave.
The policy says the leave ends if the employee is fully immunized, if the provincial government lifts all restrictions in the event of a pandemic, or if the CBRM determines that the leave is no longer necessary.
But it also says that employees who do not comply can be subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination.
The policy adopted with only Coun. Gordon MacDonald voting against.
A postal worker and union representative, MacDonald said he was not anti-vaccination and had been immunized.
But he said no one should be forced to give up their livelihood for what he called a personal right.
MacDonald said if CBRM can accommodate people with legitimate exemptions, it should be able to accommodate others.