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With Deadline To Get Vaccinated Passed, 12-Hour Shifts Begin For Correction Workers On Rikers Island

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- City correction officers on Rikers Island now have to work 12-hour shifts, as the department's vaccine mandate is in effect.

As CBS2's Aundrea Cline-Thomas reported Wednesday, it's a move to address the severe staff shortages, after months of chaos.

It was back to work on Rikers Island, but this time only for staff who have had at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine.

As of Wednesday morning, 77% of uniformed Department of Correction employees complied. Another 9% remain on the job as their requested accommodations, including religious and medical exemptions, are considered.

"We've seen it with every agency. There's a certain number of days where things need to sort out and they do sort out. It's going to happen again here," Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

Unfazed, the mayor pointed to other city agencies rebounding after lagging uptake.

But Rikers is different, as a months-long staffing crisis has fueled violence.

To prevent magnifying the shortage, correction officers now must work 12-hour shifts, at least until more officers get the shot.

"Remember, a lot of people have been already working overtime here and pretty hefty overtime. In some respects, it's going to even that out. Some people who haven't worked quite as much will now be working 12 hours," DOC Commissioner Vincent Schiraldi said.

That overtime makes for a weary staff, according to the correction officers union, which said Tuesday the mandate, "will have a catastrophic impact on the safety of our officers and the thousands of inmates in our custody."

"We see that folks initially who choose leave without pay pretty quickly in many, many cases come back and get vaccinated," de Blasio said.

But exactly how many employees are now on leave without pay because of the mandate? After being asked repeatedly, the city has yet to say.

Meanwhile, the correction officers union has threatened legal action.

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