London

City broadens staff vaccination policy, one for councillors still in the works

The City of London has tightened up its COVID-19 vaccination policy. It will now require all employees and contractors who work for the city to provide proof of vaccination unless they can declare in writing a medical reason for not getting the shot. 

In cases where councillors don't comply, city's integrity commissioner could weigh in

The city of London has changed its vaccine policy, so that employees no longer have the option of getting regular COVID-19 testing in lieu of a vaccination. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

The City of London has tightened its COVID-19 vaccination policy to require all city employees and contractors to provide proof of vaccination unless they can declare in writing a medical reason for not getting the shot. 

The policy previously allowed non-vaccinated employees to come to work if they submitted to regular COVID-19 testing and agreed to attend a COVID-19 education class. Those exemptions have now been removed from the policy. 

The updated policy was released Friday by city manager Lynne Livingstone and will come into effect on Wednesday. A report spelling out the policy will come before Tuesday's council meeting, but it's only being presented as information to councillors. Because it's an administrative policy that applies to city staff, it doesn't require council approval. 

In a statement, Livingstone said changes to the vaccination policy came in response to the province's announcement that proof of vaccination will be required for "high risk" indoor settings. City workplaces include gyms and arenas. The updated policy also follows guidance from London's medical officer of health, who is encouraging mandatory workplace proof of COVID-19 vaccinations. 

The policy will apply to anyone working for the city, including consultants, contractors, volunteers and interns. 

Employees who don't get the shot will have to provide a "written attestation" of a medical reason, or a reason for exemption under the Ontario Human Rights Code before Sept. 29. Those who've had a single shot by Sept. 29 will have until Nov. 1 to get the second dose.

The policy says "immediate removal from active duties," suspension and firing could be a result of non-compliance.

The policy does not apply to London Transit Commission or the London Police Service.

Policy for councillors still in the works

A separate but almost identical vaccination policy that would apply to the mayor and members of city council is being developed and likely will come to council for final approval in early October. 

Coun. Josh Morgan is backing a move to create a vaccination policy that would apply to London city council members. The policy would be similar, but not identical, to the COVID vaccination policy for employees. (City of London)

Coun. Josh Morgan said a separate policy is needed because only councillors — not city staff— can set rules for themselves. 

A council vaccine policy could come into play because Ward 1 Coun. Michael Van Holst is opposed to vaccine mandates and was the only member of council not to disclose his vaccine status when asked by CBC News last month. 

Van Holst has written a letter to council that's on the agenda for Tuesday's meeting, which asks councillors to vote down a vaccine mandate for council members. In his letter, which you can read here, Van Holst says Ontario's vaccine mandates are moving toward "medical totalitarianism." 

Morgan said council needs its own vaccination policy. 

"We do not have all of those options on what we can do if a councillor is not in compliance," said Morgan. "We are restricted by the Municipal Act. Council does not have the ability to terminate another councillor from the job. So the policies have to be different because there's different legislation at play." 

While not speaking specifically about Van Holst, Morgan said it's possible that in a situation where council member refuses to comply, the matter could be referred to the city's integrity commissioner on any "punitive actions that council can approve." 

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