PHOENIX — The city of Phoenix's 14,000 employees have two months to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus or risk getting terminated.
The mandate covers police officers and firefighters, according to city spokesman Dan Wilson.
According to an email sent out Thursday by the city, Phoenix's workers must be vaccinated by Jan. 18, 2022, or they will be subject to "progressive discipline," which could include termination.
"The responsibility of balancing the rights to a safe workplace with the rights to make individual health choices is not one we’ve taken lightly," the city's email states. "Although the city has and continues to provide free COVID-19 testing and vaccines, the choice to get vaccinated has remained entirely at the discretion of each individual employee."
The city said new legal guidance on President Joe Biden's September vaccination mandate for federal contractors confirmed that the mandate also covers cities like Phoenix that have a large number of federal contracts.
Assistant City Manager Lori Bays said they became aware of the mandate this month with an amendment was added to an existing federal contract.“This was a contract for our aviation and police departments working with the bomb-sniffing dogs at the airport,” said Bays.
The city is willing to offer religious or medical exemptions to employees who qualify for the exception.
Phoenix is paying out $75 to every employee who shows proof of vaccination by the Jan. 18 deadline.
Wilson said that other cities around the country are expected to issue similar vaccination mandates based on the contractor requirement.
He said the city's police and firefighter unions had been briefed on the new mandate.
The mandate is happening at a time when Phoenix is dealing with a staffing crisis in its police department. The city's leaders have said Phoenix is struggling to hire enough officers to meet staffing needs.
"I don’t think anyone should be mandated to put something in their body that they don’t agree with," said City of Phoenix Councilman Sal DiCiccio in an interview Thursday night. "This is completely a slap in the face of our Police Department and our Fire Department."
Back in March, data from the City of Phoenix showed police and firefighters had the highest numbers of COVID cases among city staff. DiCiccio thinks many who already caught the virus opted not to get vaccinated and might leave over the mandate.
Meanwhile, unions are taking a hard look at the new requirement.
"We’re looking at the legalities of this," Frank Piccioli said over the phone Thursday night.
Frank Piccioli is a rep for AFSCME Local 2960, a union that represents city 911 operators. He hopes they can also negotiate a testing option if one of their members doesn't want or can't have a vaccine.
"We encourage our members to get vaccinated, but also as a union was against any form of mandate."
Phoenix Law Enforcement Association President Britt London told 12 News, hundreds of these members are considering retirement and do not agree with the mandate. There are currently 800 members eligible for retirement.
“We have had hundreds of members tell us that this is the final straw," said London. "This is what is going to push them off the edge.”
The Phoenix Fire Fighter Association also strongly rebukes the federal mandate.
“A large portion of our membership kind of cherishes the opportunity to retain their freedom to become vaccinated," said Secretary of Communication, P.J. Dean. "They have been very outspoken that they will not submit to a mandate and will leave the job if forced to.”
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