Philadelphia extends vaccine mandate deadline for city workers

A member of the Philadelphia Fire Department administers the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to a person at a vaccination site setup

A member of the Philadelphia Fire Department administers the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to a person at a vaccination site setup at a Salvation Army location in Philadelphia, Friday, March 26, 2021. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

A vaccine mandate for city workers in Philadelphia originally set to start Friday has been extended to later in January because negotiations with the unions representing municipal employees are ongoing.

In November, the city announced that all municipal employees and contractors, including union workers, would have to be vaccinated by Jan. 14. Officials had previously mandated vaccines for non-union workers only by Dec. 1.

City employees now have until Jan. 24 to meet the vaccination mandate.

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In a statement Friday, the city said it has a legal obligation to negotiate the impact of the mandate with its labor union partners, which include those representing police and firefighters, prior to its implementation.

“As vaccines continue to be the best way to protect Philadelphians and save lives, we’re proud that nearly 22,000 city employees have gotten vaccinated and at least another 1,300 have an approved exemption to the vaccination mandate for city employees — representing nearly 81% of all city employees,” Mayor Jim Kenney said in the statement. “We also commend those employees who’ve taken the first steps to getting vaccinated — receiving at least one dose of the vaccine by today.”

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AFSCME District Council 33, which represents blue-collar employees such as sanitation workers and recreation center personnel, was the first union to agree to the mandate earlier this month. The city reached an agreement Friday with AFSCME District Council 47, which represents white-collar employees such as administrative assistants and lower-level supervisors. The city agreed to a condition that any future deal with the remaining labor unions that includes more favorable terms must automatically be extended to members of DC 33 and DC 47 — that includes any extension to the vaccine deadline.

Because of this condition, and because of pending agreements, the vaccine mandate deadline had to be extended, the city’s statement said. As interest arbitration panel proceedings continue for certain uniformed employees, the date may be adjusted again. However, the city said it expects a full award governing its contract with the Fraternal Order of Police to be handed down in the next two weeks.

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