North Bay City Council has officially voted into effect the City of North Bay's COVID-19 vaccination policy.
A special meeting of council held Thursday morning saw all members vote in favour, except Coun. George Maroosis, who abstained. An abstention is considered a vote against in the official minutes.
Council members previously discussed the policy during Tuesday's regular meeting.
See original story: City employees will need to show proof of full vaccination status
Tuesday, Council supported the recommendation mandating City employees provide proof of full vaccination status by November 29, setting up Thursday's vote. Exemptions for employees based on religious or health grounds are contingent upon proof of a negative rapid antigen test at regular intervals not to exceed 72 hours.
Deputy Mayor Tanya Vrebosch identified the policy as a means to "continue to protect the health and safety of City of North Bay employees, and members of the public from the spread of COVID-19, and to meet the obligation under the Occupational Health and Safety Act to take all necessary precautions to protect the health and safety of the workforce."
Reading from the staff report, Vrebosch noted, "Non-compliance with this policy may result in discipline up to and including termination."
"We know vaccinations are the best way to protect our community," added Coun. Bill Vrebosch. "We have an obligation to make our workplaces as safe as possible during this fourth wave. We can't afford another lockdown."
Some of the language surrounding paid and unpaid leave concerned both Councillors Chris Mayne and Maroosis.
Maroosis said the policy needs an administrative leave option. "I'd hate to see anyone lose their job permanently. And, of course, we haven't even talked about what kind of severance might have to be paid out in these situations."
The possibility of losing members of the City's workforce who have opted not to be vaccinated also worries Maroosis.
The Deputy Mayor responded in an attempt to reassure her colleagues. by observing employees will have the option of using vacation, sick time or unpaid leave in association with policy compliance. Vrebosch stressed the City also has to "look at operational requirements. Depending on how many people go on unpaid leave, we still have to be able to operate the City. Those [decisions] will be under the purview of the CAO."
She added the November 29 window provides the needed time to receive both shots and report to work and management and supervisors will provide employees the time to do so.
Brent Lavigne, President of CUPE Local 122 told BayToday the union wants to avoid terminations. CUPE Local 122 represents 300 full- and part-time inside/outside City of North Bay employees and library workers.
"We want to make sure that the employer is able to accommodate anyone that fits those requirements — as in a medical accommodation or for religious reasons."
Vrebosch echoed statements made Tuesday about being challenged over the policy.
"Somebody's probably going to challenge this. There are probably going to be grievances. But, there could be grievances on the other side. Two employees: One says they don't want to get vaccinated and the other one says, 'I don't feel safe coming to work.' I feel for the unions because they are going to have to deal with both sides but the policy speaks to giving people time."