Vaccine deadline for city and provincial staff fast approaching

File image: A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Richmond, B.C., on Saturday, April 10, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)

The deadlines for City of Winnipeg and provincial workers to get fully vaccinated is quickly approaching, but what happens if the workers aren't fully vaccinated?

City employees have until Nov. 15, 2021, to get both doses and proof of vaccine will be required two weeks beforehand, while provincial workers need proof by the end of October.

For the city, workers will need to get their second dose by Oct. 28 to meet the deadline. This includes library staff, transit drivers and emergency personnel.

Murray Jowett who was at Millennium Library on Tuesday said he thinks it’s a good idea.

"Yeah, unless they have a good reason I think it's kind of everybody's responsibility to be double vaccinated," said Jowett.

For those who are not vaccinated, the city says exemptions will be made on a case-by-case basis, based on physical or mental disability or religious grounds.

"Some may have religious, medical or whatever other concerns,” said Gord Delbridge, the president of CUPE local 500. “You know, I'm hopeful that the employer is able to accommodate through other means."

Exemption measures would include regular testing, working with other restrictions, other accommodations the city considers acceptable and the possibility of a leave of absence.

The city said employees not granted an exemption and not in compliance with the vaccine mandate could be subject to frequent testing, a transfer to another department or a leave.

The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) said some of its members have questions about how testing will be done.

"That's causing an anxiety through those people that don't know what they're looking at. They don't know if it's testing three times a week, is it going to be done in their home, is it going to be done in the street," said James Van Gerwen, the executive vice president of ATU.

The province's deadline is sooner as employees such as health-care workers, teacher and childcare staff need to be vaccinated by Oct. 31, with proof being shown by Oct. 18. Without proof, regular testing will be required.

At this time, the province said numbers on unvaccinated workers are not yet available.

The city had a similar response, saying the proof of vaccination is not required yet. CUPE believes its numbers reflect the general population and the ATU projects around 85 per cent.

City staff who don't provide proof will be required to participate in education on the risks and benefits of the vaccine.