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City of Tucson makes plans to fire 300 workers

Published: Oct. 20, 2021 at 8:33 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The City of Tucson is making plans to terminate as many as 300 of its employees who have refused to get vaccinated. The city has nearly 4,000 workers.

The city council voted 4-3 to support a plan put together by City Manager Michael Ortega which will terminate workers who have not been vaccinated or applied for and received a religious or medical exemption.

It follows months of deliberations since the Mayor and Council passed a vaccine mandate on August 13, 2021 by a 6-1 vote.

Of the 300 workers who face terminations, 50 are police officers and 53 are firefighters.

“My goal and my hope is no one loses their job,” Ortega said. “That’s not my intent here.”

Ortega said there is still time for the workers too get vaccinated or receive an exemption before the Dec. 1 deadline.

In the meantime, the city is looking at it’s options in case the terminations become a reality.

“Bringing in temporary employees, bringing in retirees, bringing in contract workers on a temporary basis,” Ortega said. “Those are all options that are available to us.”

Plus, the city manager’s office will put together an aggressive recruitment plan with the goal of finding permanent replacements.

One concern is public safety services in light of losing so many officers at one time but Ortega has a plan for that.

“We are focusing a lot of our attention on the community safety pilot program which is the hiring of community services officers to take some of those non emergency calls and help support the effort,” he said.

That has been an ongoing effort which could be expanded.

Even with all the planning, there could be unanticipated issues which pop up.

“Will there maybe be some temporary bumps in the road, perhaps,” said Steve Kozachik, Tucson City Council member who supports the City Manager’s plan. “But that’s a risk I’m willing to take when I balance that versus the safety of the public which what our main priority is and ought to be.”

Those 300 workers who have failed to get vaccinated are also subject to a five day suspension without pay.

All of this could be for naught because Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has filed suit against Tucson for its vaccine mandate calling in a violation of state law.

A lower court judge made a ruling which gave Tucson and others the go ahead with mask and vaccine mandates.

The Arizona State Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case November 2, 2021 but there’s no predicting when it might rule.

“We’re prepared for whatever comes down,” Ortega said. “If we get direction that’s different from this we’ll deal with that as well.”

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