Municipal staff

Calls to ban compulsory vaccines for Aurora municipal staff rejected by council

Councilor John Gallo’s efforts to get the city to drop the demand that all staff, volunteers and students in co-op programs be fully immunized this month were rejected by a 4-3 vote

The efforts of Aurora City Councilor John Gallo to get the city to reverse its decision to require all city workers, volunteers and co-op students to show proof of vaccination this month have been rejected by the council by 4 votes to 3.

Last week, Councilor Gallo introduced a motion to give staff the ability to undergo frequent rapid antigen tests rather than requiring individuals to prove their immunization status.

This, he argued, would give people working at city hall protection against COVID-19 while preserving their privacy.

“For me, the current policy offers two options: be doubly vaccinated or potentially lose your job,” Councilor Gallo said, citing other government agencies that have offered the rapid testing option. “This, to me, is not the right solution when there are other solutions that can continue to maintain the health and safety of individuals.”

The city announced its vaccination policy in late August with a statement from Mayor Tom Mrakas. The decision, he said, was taken at the time by CAO Doug Nadorozny and when Councilor Gallo’s motion was presented last week, the mayor defended Nadorozny’s position while stating that “politicize “the pandemic” serves no one “.

“We achieve this by working together towards a common cause,” said Mayor Mrakas. “As mayor, my job from day one has been to rely on the advice of the medical officer of health to protect the health and well-being of everyone in our community.

“I recognize the need for extraordinary measures that provincial and municipal leaders have taken to protect our residents, staff and business owners from the highly contagious delta variant, but with regard to the motion on the floor, I do not. will not support. I cannot support the motion presented because it goes against the advice of our medical officer of health and puts the health and safety of our community at risk. “

Councilor Gallo was not the only lawmaker in favor of his motion. He was also supported by Councilors Rachel Gilliland and Wendy Gaertner.

In supporting the motion, Councilor Gilliland, who said she was doubly vaccinated, stepped into the shoes of other people who may not be able to get vaccinated, whether due to a medical problem, a religious reason or simply an uncertainty.

“I encourage everyone to get vaccinated, I absolutely agree with the medical officer of health who [this] is the best way to fight this, but for someone to be afraid and risk losing their livelihood, job, security, everything, and feel like they don’t have any other choice – I cannot stay here and say that I do not support what Councilor Gallo is proposing today, ”she said.

“I don’t want to be put in this position where I think someone’s livelihood is in jeopardy just because I have a little time to have that option that is there. Why can’t we at least make our people, the small percentage of people, feel like they have a choice. Get the vaccine, I agree, but I think there should be some sort of option for them to go through the education process, to allow them to understand where they need to be to get the vaccine, and take it from there.

” You get there [with vaccination rates] and I’m sure it will increase, but let’s not put the livelihoods of the people [at risk] and gives them more anxiety. I don’t want to see suicides and depression… there is enough stress in the family already. I don’t think they’re all selfish and no one should be pinned together [that] they’re all anti-vaccine because they’re not, the ones that say they just want to take a little time. Do not mix them all together.

Likewise, Councilor Gaertner’s support for the motion came from the point of view of staff job protection.

“I’m not comfortable knowing that loyal employees might lose their jobs because of this,” she said. “I understand all the arguments everyone has made and frankly everyone is right – it doesn’t matter which side you stand on, all sides are right.”

Councilor Gallo concluded his argument on the same wavelength, saying that he respected each other’s positions.

“I don’t believe that anyone at this table wants to endanger an employee or the public,” he said. “If you’re against what I’m proposing, I don’t think you want to do that, and I don’t think you think I want to endanger anyone either.

“I saw emails [throughout the pandemic commending our  staff] to come to work, to do their work, to put themselves in danger. For employees who now want to preserve their privacy and do whatever they want with their medical treatments, we now say, “Sorry, you’re going to lose your job. I can’t sit and watch this. Voting against this is telling these employees that we are making double vaccinations mandatory and that if you don’t, you will lose your job.

Mayor Mrakas said that the “insinuation” that supporting the compulsory vaccine for all city workers, volunteers and co-op program students is like not caring about jobs “is an absolutely misleading way of doing it. to say”.

“I think we are all concerned about our employees, their jobs, their safety and our community as a whole,” he said.

This theme resonated with the four board members who voted against the motion.

For Councilor Michael Thompson, employee health and safety was a top priority.

“The underlying rationale is simple: vaccinated employees are less likely to be infected and transmit COVID-19. This is simply a reasonable precaution to take for the protection of the workplace and as an employer we must take all reasonable precautions to protect our workers. It’s not just about our employees; our workers have regular access to members of the public to a much greater extent than employees in an office building. Therefore, using this policy will protect not only our employees, but the members of the public with whom they regularly interact. “

He went on to quote experts who said regular testing for COVID-19 is an ineffective way to stop the spread, emphasizing vaccinations in the fight against the virus.

“Safety is a key part of this discussion and many others that we have around the table. How often in our decisions have we emphasized safety? After all, vaccinations offer the best protection we currently have against COVID-19 and all indications are that vaccination rules and policies are here to stay for some time. This policy ensures that we provide our workers with the highest possible safety measures and we should not compromise the safety of our employees or residents by adopting the changes proposed by Councilor Gallo.

Councilor Harold Kim agreed that “vaccination is the best defense against COVID-19” while stating that he believes “in the individual right not to inject himself with something he does not feel comfortable with” .

“However, there is a consequence to every decision,” he said. “We don’t live in isolation, but rather we live in a community and work in a community with others. It is a question of a balance of interests. I believe that there is an ethical balance that must be found… In my opinion, vaccination has a higher cost-benefit profile compared to other alternatives.

“Having said that, I believe people have gainful jobs. Speaking with staff, among a staff of over 500 in the city, a very small number expressed some dissatisfaction with the prospect of a vaccination policy. I have received assurances from our CAO that all possible measures will be taken to ensure that all means of retaining personnel are implemented. I believe we can make it work.

The decision not to support the motion was personal to Councilor Sandra Humfryes, who said she had lost a close family member to the virus.

“The main thing is safety first and our medical experts ask us to please get vaccinated,” she said. “This is how we protect ourselves, our community and our loved ones. I am not a doctor, I rely a lot on doctors, experts in this field, and if there is a real concern or very serious reasons why it could not be done, I am sure the doctors will be able to help to deal with some of the ways of getting around to adapt to their job. The majority need this vaccination to help ourselves and our families and we are the public sector here. We have an obligation to know that since our staff are in contact with residents, we are not putting anyone at risk. “

Brock Weir is a reporter with the federally funded Local Journalism Initiative at The Auroran

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