248 city of Toronto employees suspended without pay for not showing proof of COVID-19 vaccination

Five teenagers were infected after an outbreak of measles in a Toronto park

248 city of Toronto employees suspended without pay for not showing proof of COVID-19 vaccination

At least 248 city of Toronto employees have been suspended without pay for failing to meet the city’s vaccination requirements, leaving them unable to work for 20 weeks, city staff have said.

Five teenagers fell ill with measles after a measles outbreak in a Toronto park in July 2018. A week later, the city announced that 293 city employees had not signed on for immunization.

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Toronto city councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon told the Toronto Star that the salary suspensions are between $700 and $1,500, and equate to a total of $1.1m that will be withheld from employees’ salaries.

“Our city staff really need to have the flu shot,” McMahon said. “Let’s take a step back and realize, as Torontonians, we are responsible to the $54bn they spend. We are also responsible to the parks staff … and they deserve those vaccines and should have them.”

The city said on Tuesday that it wants to vaccinate against nine “potentially life-threatening” diseases, including meningitis, sepsis, whooping cough, flu, influenza, chicken pox, rotavirus, shigellosis and tetanus. The city has established registration for health clinics and gets five million client interactions each year.

A Health Canada vaccination mandate has been considered in Ontario but failed to pass after heated debate in the provincial parliament. The province’s health minister has said the government is open to reviewing the proposal.

On Wednesday the Canadian health minister, Ginette Petitpas Taylor, confirmed her department will meet with city officials next week to “understand how the city is setting up vaccination clinics and handing out vaccines to all ages for vaccinations against flu, pertussis and measles, mumps and rubella”.

“Since the outbreak last summer, the government has committed $4.4m to help address this public health crisis,” she said in a statement. “If, as city officials have indicated, the city of Toronto plans to offer this important vaccination as part of their vaccination program, then Ottawa supports this move to protect vulnerable populations.”

The Toronto Star reported on Tuesday that city staff have been barred from travelling to public events or performances.

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