BOSTON (CBS) – About 100 firefighters stood outside Boston City Hall Monday in protest as Mayor Michelle Wu spoke about the decision to delay implementation of a vaccine mandate for city workers by another week.
Initially, city workers who did not provide proof of COVID vaccination were set to be subject to unpaid leave starting Monday. But Wu announced Sunday that enforcement would not begin for another week, citing productive talks with city unions in recent days.
"As you've seen we are giving our employees one more week to get vaccinated and that means that there will be no unpaid leave between January 25 and January 30," Wu said. "We're going to continue prioritizing communication with our employees and unions and there will be multiple vaccination clinics hosted throughout this week as well."
Firefighters want the option for unvaccinated employees to be able to instead provide a weekly negative COVID test.
"Our main message is to ask Michelle Wu to sit at the bargaining table. This is all about collective bargaining. The testing is the most important thing that we're asking for. For her to break the collective bargaining is not fair to us. And that's why we're standing here," said Boston Firefighters Local 718 president John Sarro, adding "We want to settle this. We just think it should be fair to everybody."
Wu said nearly every department in the city has reached a vaccination rate of at least 95%. About 91% of Boston Fire Department employees are vaccinated.
Sarro said he has not had any conversations with Wu about the mandate.
The mayor said conversations are going "very well" with city unions, which led to the extension. She said negotiations are "getting close."
"We know that across our workforce, everyone is trying to do the right thing and we know how important vaccinations are to keeping individuals and families and our community safe so we'll continue working with our city municipal union partners. This policy does represent an important step in our pandemic," Wu said.
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