Boston police union expects high compliance as vaccine mandate enforcement begins
A union leader says numbers overall are good, so he hopes the mayor will avoid punishing the few not in compliance
By Sean Philip Cotter
BOSTON — Boston's largest public safety unions say their members largely have high levels of compliance with the city's vaccine mandate — as their workers begin to face punishment this week if they don't follow the city's rules.
Boston Police Patrolmen's Association President Larry Calderone said less than 100 of his 1,500-plus members received notices that they were out of compliance with the city's vax-or-test mandate. He said the department's numbers are good — so the mayor should think about avoiding punishing people not in compliance.
"Given the fact that 95% of our officers are in compliance with the Mayor's mandate and fully understand the need to safeguard our city vs. the pandemic, we would certainly hope her appetite for punitive measures, like putting people on unpaid leave, would be diminished in light of the tremendous progress being made," Calderone said in a statement Saturday.
Boston Firefighters Local 718 IAFF President John Soares said he doesn't anticipate any significant disruptions to fire services.
"We're doing really well," Soares said. He said there are some guys among his similarly 1,500-plus members who are "steadfast" in not wanting either the vaccine or the regular tests, but most people have been glad to do so. "We've been working COVID from the beginning."
This is a different dynamic than some large public-safety unions have had; cop unions in New York and Chicago have been more adversarial to different types of mandates, and closer to home the largest Massachusetts State Police union continues to battle Gov. Charlie Baker's requirements.
All of the city's public safety employees — plus others in "Phase 2," in including inspectional services — who are out of compliance will begin to face enforcement Tuesday.
The city's mandate, announced in August, is not absolute; employees who don't want to get a vaccine can either submit records of weekly negative tests or a medical or religious exemption.
The first wave of enforcement began two weeks ago, when workers in "Phase 1" — which included the school district, which is the city's largest department — began to get placed on unpaid leave. The city initially noticed 1,400 employees a week before enforcement began, and then suspended 812, a number that quickly dipped into the 600s, though as of Friday it hadn't dropped much since the day after enforcement began.
Boston, which has 18,000 city employees, sent out notices on Thursday to all non-compliant Phase 2 employees, though Janey's administration wouldn't say how many.
"We will continue to work with our employees to make sure that they have every opportunity to get into compliance," Janey said Saturday when asked about enforcement. "Those who do not get into compliance will be placed on unpaid leave."
Janey said she will "work with our department heads, our cabinet chiefs around operational plans, should we find any shortages."
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