Apr 27, 2022 - News

Philadelphia police face May 31 deadline to get vaccinated

Illustration of a pattern of syringes.
Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Unionized workers employed by the city of Philadelphia now face a May 31 deadline to get fully vaccinated or face being placed on leave and potentially fired.

What's happening: An arbitration panel set the new deadline for Philly's long-delayed vaccination mandate after settling a challenge from the city's police union on Tuesday.

  • Yes, but: The International Association of Fire Fighters Local 22 continues to fight the mandate in arbitration proceedings, which could threaten the implementation of the mandate again.

Catch up quick: The city announced the mandate in November, requiring that all 22,000 unionized employees be fully vaccinated or get an approved exemption by mid-January.

  • But the deadline was delayed as police and fire unions fought the mandate in arbitration proceedings.
  • While the city has secured agreements with three out of four of the city's major employee unions, the arrangements include provisions that push back unions' deadlines if others secure later dates.

How it works: The arbitration panel's decision on Tuesday requires officers to be fully vaccinated by May 31 or risk being placed on leave starting June 6 for a maximum 30 days.

  • Cops can get paid while on leave by using their accumulated vacation, holiday or other paid time off. Otherwise, the leave is unpaid.
  • Officers can be fired if they're not fully vaccinated by the end of the leave.
  • Exemptions are carved out for medical or religious reasons.

Zoom in: Approximately 97% of sworn officers are fully vaccinated, received a first dose, or had an exemption request approved, according to the city.

  • Only 10 officers on active duty have yet to comply with the mandate as of April 13, city spokesperson Joy Huertas told Axios.

What they're saying: Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement that public servants bear a responsibility to "set an example for other organizations and companies."

  • Mike Neilon, a spokesperson for the police union, declined to comment.

What's next: The next scheduled session with the arbitration panel for the firefighters union and the city is May 4.

  • Philadelphia will seek to apply the arbitration award for the police union to members of the firefighters union, Huertas told Axios.
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