Get vaccinated or submit to regular COVID testing.
In a 13-1 vote at a special meeting today, City Council approved a new COVID vaccination policy for the City of Hamilton’s 7000 plus staff to be vaccinated against COVID by November 1st.
Ward 7 councillor Esther Pauls voted against the policy. Ward 5 councillor Chad Collins was absent, and Ward 14 councillor Terry Whitehead is on medical leave.
Council voted 14-0 to call on the provincial government to implement an Ontario-wide mandatory COVID vaccination regulation with verification documents.
City staff have until September 15th to provide proof of vaccination.
“We still have a duty or responsibility to do our best for our employees [to protect them],” said mayor Fred Eisenberger. “We’re intending to at some point between now and the end of the year, have our employees come back into the workplace, for those that are working from home.”
The policy is effective immediately. Staff who do not have a medical or human rights exception have until November 1st to become fully vaccinated or be subject to a mandatory education session regarding the benefits of vaccination.
“Those choosing not to or unable to get vaccinated will need to get regular testing,” said Lora Fontana, executive director of human resources for the City of Hamilton. “We haven’t really finalized those details or logistics on how we’re going to manage the testing process … whether or not it’s once a week or twice a week is yet to be resolved.”
The policy will apply to all staff regardless of full, part-time, or casual employment as well as volunteers and members of City Council.
“There’s no distinction between employees working from home and those who are physically at work,” said Fontana. “Employees currently working from home will be subject to all the provisions in the mandatory policy.”
Ward 9 councillor Brad Clark sought assurance the policy complied with people’s right to informed consent for medical procedures.
“I understand the intention of the policy. I think it’s laudable what we’re trying to achieve. I’m trying to reconcile, in my own mind, how we’re complying with the doctrine of informed consent.”
City management confirmed they will not force anyone to get vaccinated, except those working in roles subject to provincial regulations requiring vaccination.
“Excellent. That’s how we comply with the Acts [provincial laws],” Clark responded.
The goal of the policy is to have 90% of city staff fully vaccinated against COVID.
“I know from talking to Dr. Richardson, in terms of our community at large, they really are hoping to get 90% vaccination rates for herd immunity,” said city manager Janette Smith. “And so you know, I think we would adopt that naturally as the city.”
Ward 8 councillor John Paul Danko asked if the City could extend the vaccination requirement to include visitors and users of city facilities and indoor services.
Smith states “at this point in time, we’re not looking at that.”
The City is determining if it can require outsourced staff to be vaccinated. The City pays companies to provide security services, cleaning, and provide temporary workers as needed.
“I know that this will likely be challenged somewhere along the line, one way or the other. If we did nothing, we will be challenged for not upholding that duty or responsibility to protect,” said mayor Eisenberger. “I would say that we’re on the right side of the issue.”
Ward 7 councillor Esther Pauls did not publicly state why she voted against the policy.
Council debated the policy at length in closed session, claiming they were receiving legal advice and the policy could be subject to litigation.