New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the city government reached an agreement with four labor unions over its COVID-19 vaccine mandate for city employees. The unions as part of the deal agreed to withdraw a lawsuit they filed last month challenging the city’s right to implement the vaccine mandate.
The agreement includes handling of vaccine exemptions and leave policies, according to a statement from the mayor’s office on Thursday.
The four unions who signed the deal are District Council 37, New York City’s largest public employee union, local Teamsters, Uniformed Sanitationmen’s Association, and Service Employees International Union. They represent city employees of various professions. The agreement covers approximately 75,000 employees but excludes members employed at the City’s Department of Education (DOE) and Health+Hospitals (H+H), a public health care system.
Over 92 percent of New York City workers under the mandate were vaccinated, the statement said. Among the City firefighters, whose union has not signed any agreement with the city, 80 percent are vaccinated and 90 percent among the EMS workers, de Blasio told WNYC on Friday.
“We are proud to have negotiated collective bargaining agreements with several unions regarding the vaccination mandate, which provide a process for our employees to request medical or religious exemptions and establish rules for employees on leave without pay,” labor commissioner of the Mayor’s Office Renee Campion said in a statement.
Under this agreement, employees who applied for an exemption from the vaccine mandate for medical or religious reasons will receive an initial decision from the agency they work for. This decision can be appealed to an arbitrator or to “an internal city panel” the statement asserted.
According to the agreement (pdf) with District Council 37, New York City’s largest public employee labor union, the city panel will make decisions only based on documentation submitted, without any live hearing.
Union members who signed the agreement and filed the exemption request by Nov. 2 will remain on payroll with weekly testing until the agency issues a decision and any appeal is resolved, according to the statement.
Unvaccinated workers have until Nov. 5 to apply for exemptions but they will be paid only until their employer makes a determination and will be placed on unpaid leave during the appeal.
If workers on unpaid leave voluntarily resign they can keep their health insurance until the end of June 2022.
If a worker gets vaccinated while on unpaid leave he or she can return to work at the same location.