UPDATE: City responds to Toronto paramedic union's claims about vaccine rollout for its members
NEWSTALK1010 has obtained a memo sent to Toronto paramedics union members.
They claim that the city is not willing to compensate them for the time needed to get a vaccine. They're asking for three hours paid to go and get the shot when off duty.
"We had an initial understanding, with the Chief, that for obtaining the vaccination off duty, members would be compensated with 3 hours at straight time. This is what the City compensated it's LTC staff. Unfortunately, corporate has vetoed said compensation," says the memo.
"Once again, the City of Toronto has displayed a total lack of respect and slapped it's paramedics in the face," reads the memo, "This City's Paramedics who have worked tirelessly throughout Covid, gone above and beyond the call, in a risky environment, call to call, without even a lousy 30 minute meal break, and this is the respect they show you?"
The union is also upset that three management staff were able to obtain a vaccination, while on duty.
The union also claims in the internal memo that, the City of Toronto deffered purchasing 3m N-95 masks for the pandemic supply.
In response to the controversy surrounding PPE supply, the memo claims the following: "Furthermore, if the City was truly concerned about the costs of compensation (an estimated total of $175,000) we would suggest they recover the funds from the Red Light and Speed Enforcement fines they are making us pay for doing our job. Or perhaps they could find the funds in the savings from the deferral of purchasing 3M N95's for the pandemic supply."
"That said, we felt it was important that you were aware of this before opting to get the vaccine on your own time. At the end of the day, whatever you decide to do, your Executive will support your decision either way. In reality this is not about compensation, this is about respect," the memo adds.
The City of Toronto has issued a response to the union's claims tonight. It reads, in part:
The COVID-19 Vaccination program for paramedics is voluntary. As we do with the flu vaccine program, we are working with our staff to encourage full participation from our paramedics. The 1,300 Toronto Paramedics are considered an extension of hospital Emergency Department teams.
Given the impact COVID-19 has had, the City trusts that all members of the Toronto public service as well as members of the public will take advantage of the opportunity to get the vaccine when it becomes available to them without the expectation of pay.
Long Term Care Homes employees who put up their hands to be part of the first group of Canadians to get the vaccination over the last three weeks were paid where they were unable to get the vaccine during their shifts. In the initial rollout the vaccine was only available at one downtown location. Those employees are now getting their second dose of vaccines and the unions have been notified that the initial program will cease effective tomorrow.
Like Paramedics, employees in Long Term Care Homes and other City employees who become eligible to get the vaccine will not be paid. This is consistent with the City's practice with other vaccines.
Throughout this pandemic the public service has been focused on protecting the public we serve and themselves from COVID-19. We trust that our public service will see taking the vaccine as an extension of that responsibility.
The City has worked hard to make sure our frontline paramedics are able to get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible within the provincial framework and based on the availability of the federal government's supply.
We will continue to work with local hospitals and Toronto Public Health to make sure our paramedics are properly vaccinated given the crucial role they play in the healthcare system.
Newstalk1010 will continue to follow this developing story and bring you updates as they become available.