Philadelphia can require vaccinations for city employees, arbitration panel says

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — An arbitration panel has ruled that Philadelphia can require all city employees to be vaccinated by Feb. 11. However, it postponed the consequences for ignoring the mandate, which could make it harder to enforce.

The panel ruled in an appeal brought by the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 but it will apply to all city unions under previous agreements that the city made.

The ruling confirms that FOP members must have at least one vaccine shot or have requested an exemption by Feb. 11. If they don’t, they will be required to double mask and test regularly, but they can still remain on the job.

In the meantime, the city must report back to the panel on the number of non-vaccinated employees, and then the panel will determine the consequences. It promises a decision by March 1.

In previous rulings, the city had been allowed to fire employees who didn’t comply. Now, that is very much in question. Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement that it is a “fair and reasonable path forward.”

The FOP is stressing a $500 bonus that employees receive for getting a shot by Feb. 11 and both doses by March 15. The bonus gradually decreases by set deadlines through the end of March.

The FOP said vaccine shots will be available on Friday in the 25th District, but it is also encouraging members to seek medical or religious vaccine exemptions.

Exemptions, however, won’t be automatically given, and arbitrators said any officer whose request is turned down must start the vaccination process within two weeks.

Deputy Mayor for Labor Rich Lazer said the city just wants to get everyone vaccinated.

“We care about our workforce. They’re our most important asset and keep our city moving, and we just want to make sure they’re protected,” he said.

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