West Vancouver Police Department members will face mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations.
On Tuesday, West Vancouver police spokesman Kevin Goodmurphy confirmed all 80 active service members will be subject to a mandate coming into effect on Jan. 11.
The District of West Vancouver announced last week that vaccines would be mandatory for all civilian staff and volunteers in municipal facilities. The mandate to be fully vaccinated as a condition of employment comes into effect on Jan. 4, 2022.
“COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on all of our lives,” said chief administrative officer Robert Bartlett, in a release. “We are all interested in moving past this pandemic, and the most effective way to do so is to promote broad vaccination. We have been and will continue to be responsive to directions and guidance from the provincial health officer as it relates to vaccinations.”
The mandate will apply to all 1,100 municipal staff, including the West Vancouver Fire and Rescue members, Blue Bus drivers and mechanics and casual/part-time staff. West Vancouver Memorial Library has its own governing board but will be adopting the same policy, said District of West Vancouver spokeswoman Donna Powers.
Powers said the district does not know how many staff members currently are not vaccinated and they won’t know until they start collecting proof in the new year. But, she said, it is expected there will be a small percentage of holdouts.
“I think that staff in our district organization are going to be generally reflective of staff in any large organization, and I think that we can expect there to be a certain amount of divisiveness,” she said.
When the mandate comes into effect early next year, Powers said they will have a process for dealing with staff and volunteers who say they have a legitimate reason for not being vaccinated. They will be considered on a case-by-case basis, confidentially.
“We won’t be accepting personal preference as a legitimate reason,” Powers said. “We would probably look to a notification process and it would be an effort to resolve the situation, and then it could result in termination if all avenues are exhausted.”
When Dr. Bonnie Henry announced that vaccinations would be mandatory to enter non-essential places like gyms and restaurants, the district did not believe it could be legal to extend the mandate to its own staff. But, Powers said, that has since changed based on guidance from the provincial health office, which has already made vaccinations mandatory for health-care workers and TransLink staff.
“Current advice from the provincial health officer is to implement vaccine mandates if it’s right for an organization,” she said.
In a notice to its members, the West Vancouver Municipal Employees’ Association says it supports efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 recommended by the PHO. But, business manager Catalin Fota said there are a number of issues the union will be pressing the district on, including exemptions for staff with health or religious reasons to avoid the vaccine.
“We realize this may raise human rights issues, privacy issues or workplace safety issues. Our members’ privacy is of utmost importance to the WVMEA and we expect that all health information is shared only on a need-to-know basis and only to a restricted group and will be stored for a limited time period and destroyed after no longer needed,” the noticed stated. “We also expect that the employer will insist that the vaccination policy will apply to contractors and the public who have direct interaction with our members to ensure their health and safety.”
Powers said they will expect contractors and consultants who come to district facilities to show proof of vaccination; however, because municipal services, transit and libraries are considered essential by the provincial health office, the district cannot force members of the public to comply.
The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 124, which represents Blue Bus drivers and staff, told its members they had reviewed the mandate with their legal counsel and will also advocate on behalf of members seeking medical or religious exemptions.
“After careful consideration, we advise our members to comply with the employer’s vaccination policy without delay,” the statement read.
Powers said the date was selected to give any remaining unvaccinated staff time to go get their shots.
There are about 500 volunteers at the seniors’ activity centre, library, West Vancouver Art Museum and community centres.
“I know that the seniors centre volunteers have been asking for this, so they’re very supportive,” Powers said.
So far, the two North Vancouver municipal governments have not announced a similar mandate.