'This about maintaining a safe workplace,' Barrie mayor supports disciplinary action for unvaccinated staff

One day after the City of Barrie announced its staff must be vaccinated by Sept. 20, its mayor says it is following the example set by many large Canadian employers doing their part in the fight against COVID-19.

"Fundamentally, this is about public health, this about maintaining a safe workplace and continuing to prevent COVID-19 cases in any city facilities as best as we can," says Jeff Lehman.

The mayor says they waited to announce the new policy for city employees to give people an opportunity to get vaccinated during the summer as the province rolled out doses.

City employees identified as high-risk because of their position must be fully vaccinated or face disciplinary action.

In an email to CTV News, the City of Barrie stated, "We will have full compliance from our staff with this policy as we do with all our corporate policies. Right now, the focus is on education and getting the workforce vaccinated. However, employees who chose not to comply with this may be subject to discipline, up to and including dismissal."

The mayor says employees who are unwilling or unable to get vaccinated will undergo regular COVID-19 testing.

"For a medical reason or other reasons an individual is not vaccinated, at their expense, they will be able to do rapid testing, and that will be required two days a week," Lehman explains.

Rapid COVID-19 tests can cost around $40 at pharmacies in Barrie.

Employers are legally obligated to ensure a safe workplace, so Lehman says there's no concern about possible legal action. "Those legal opinions are supporting the employers doing exactly what we're doing."

The mayor adds that he, and his neighbouring municipal leaders, are concerned about the Delta variant and transmission, which is fueling the push to get residents vaccinated.

"This is why the vaccinations are so important. You just have to look at the numbers daily, whether it's locally, provincial, or nationally. The people who are becoming seriously ill from COVID-19 are almost all unvaccinated," he concludes.