With hours to go before the City of LA’s employee COVID-19 vaccination mandate takes effect the City has sent its employee unions a so-called "final offer" that warns unvaccinated employees without an approved exemption will face termination Dec. 18.
Internal City documents and several City and union officials familiar with the talks told the I-Team Tuesday that final warning notices could go out as soon as this week, and employees who have not made formal requests for legitimate medical or religious exemptions will be given 60 days to comply.
“Things are way too fluid and divisive right now to comment,” said one union representative, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the talks.
The City also plans to immediately begin charging unvaccinated employees $260 per paycheck for twice-weekly Covid-19 tests that must be taken on personal time. If employees become ill with Covid they’ll have to use their accrued sick time to stay home from work.
The unions that represent the City’s police officers and firefighters declined to publicly discuss the talks or the potential consequences being considered for workers who refuse to be vaccinated, and who fail to receive a religious, medical, or disability exemption from the mandate.
The Los Angeles Police Protective League successfully negotiated non-disciplinary terminations for officers who fail to comply with the mandate, meaning those officers’ personnel records would not contain negative information, and they could re-apply to the LAPD at a future date if they decide to get vaccinated, according to several officials.
More than 2,900 police officers notified the City last month they may request one of the exemptions, though it’s not clear how many would follow-through with formal requests by the Oct. 20 deadline.
The LAPD said Tuesday that about 70% of its workforce had now received at least one vaccination dose, up from around 50% two months ago, though Chief Michel Moore said he has considered the possibility that a number of officers could be terminated for refusing the vaccine.
“Any reduction of personnel would, I believe, have an immediate impact on service levels that are yet not defined,” he told the Board of Police Commissioners, cautioning it’s unclear how many LAPD employees might ultimately refuse to comply with the mandate.
“My hope is, and our commitment as a city and as a chief, and I know this commission’s, is that every member of this organization, sworn and civilian, become vaccinated, and that we follow science,” Moore said.
United Firefighters of Los Angeles City, or UFLAC, which represents LA City firefighters, told its members in an email last week that it planned to, “aggressively fight the City’s unlawful conduct,” in reference to the "final offer" that explained the vaccine mandate enforcement.
UFLAC said in the message it had opposed the City’s plan to discipline employees for non-compliance, had demanded vaccine exemptions for firefighters who had recovered from Covid-19, and had requested an "endless" testing option for those who refuse to be vaccinated.
In August LA Mayor Eric Garcetti signed an ordinance that required City workers be fully vaccinated by Oct. 19 unless they’d been granted one of the exemptions.
The City’s public safety departments have been pushing employees to get vaccinated ahead of the deadline, and offered mobile vaccine clinics and multiple opportunities for workers to get their shot during work hours.