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Without vaccination, 300 Tucson workers face termination

Published: Oct. 14, 2021 at 6:31 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - As many as 300 Tucson city workers may face termination because they have not received a COVID-19 vaccination, which is a condition of employment.

On Aug.16, by a 6-1 vote, the city passed an ordinance implementing a vaccine mandate for the nearly 4,000 city employees.

Nearly 90% of the city workers have received a vaccine but some have refused or received a medical or religious exemption.

In a memo to the Mayor and Council, City Manager Michael Ortega said the 300 workers who have not complied will face a five day suspension without pay.

But he recommends to the council, that it take the punishment a step further and impose a timeline for termination.

In the memo, he says “employees who remain noncompliant on December 1, 2021, will be served with a Notice of Intent to Terminate not later than December 3, 2021.”

A copy of the memo can be found here.

“So that December 1st termination date for me is the line in the sand,” said Ward 6 City Council member Steve Kozachik. “I’ve been saying from the beginning that five days off is nibbling around the edges.”

Kozachik says some of those facing five day suspensions are “wearing it as a badge of honor” and “laughing at us,” which is why he believes the city needs to get serious.

So the non-compliant workers still have six weeks to decide if they want to save their jobs.

It’s anticipated some will leave their jobs and some could be police officers or firefighters which both has just under 100 employees who are not in compliance.

“So yeah, there’ll be a cost for rehiring people,” Kozachik said. “But there is also a cost to the public in terms of a) our credibility and b) the public health the longer we just punt this.”

The full council will consider the harsher punishment at its 10/19 afternoon study session.

Another immediate concern is how to stagger the suspensions so as not to create a burden for those who have complied.

Having too many workers off the job at any one time will disrupt the workplace.

Additionally, those workers who have received exemptions, will be required to be tested weekly.

“That’s going to impact our workflow, that’s going to be costly, they’re going to have to go every week to get the test,” he said. “This is going to get to the point where we say this is too much.”

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