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DUTY CALLS THEM BACK: While firefighters responded to this four-alarm fire at 1843 First Avenue in Manhattan, their union leaders were still burned up about Mayor de Blasio's vaccine mandate and the lack of information about the outcome of requests for medical or religious exemptions from their members. But the use of a form of suspension and the threat of termination for those who refuse to get inoculated has dramatically reduced the number of holdouts over the past month. 

A month into Mayor de Blasio’s vaccine mandate, the unions representing Firefighters and fire officers have no idea whether his administration has granted any of 1,200-plus applications from their members for a religious or medical exemption from the shot, even though they say hundreds have been processed.

The unions and the Fire Department said that the number of firefighters still off payroll as a result of not being vaccinated has dropped below 300. But a potential Dec. 1 termination date came and went without any action on that front.

93% Complying

The FDNY said it now had a 93-percent vaccine compliance rate, well above the 81.4 percent of the city's eligible adult population who are fully vaccinated,

At his Dec.1 briefing, when Mr. de Blasio was asked about the lagging vaccination rate for Correction Officers, he cited the FDNY's experience as validation of his approach. "The most striking example is the Fire Department. It too was at 77 percent the day of the deadline. It is now up to 92 percent-plus," he said.

Neither the Uniformed Firefighters Association nor the Uniformed Fire Officers Association has gotten a spreadsheet from the administration on how many of their members' applications have been processed, and how many have been granted.

“The first initial responses from the reasonable accommodations exemptions requests are going out all week long 200 per day, and they have seven calendar days to appeal the decision,” UFOA President James McCarthy said during a Dec. 2 phone interview. “The Fire Department is hinting that they are going to have seven days after that to comply with the vaccine or [face] separation.”

Shots Up 1% Daily

Mr. McCarthy said he had close to 170 members who had filed requests for reasonable accommodation and fewer than 30 who were off payroll for refusing to comply or seek exemptions.

“It’s progressing in that regard that the vaccinations are going up approximately one percent a day and we are waiting for additional decisions,” the UFOA president said. “I can’t [say] if anybody received an exemption except for those that got the antibody treatment, and that’s only a temporary 90-day reprieve where they can be tested or vaccinated.”

Mr. McCarthy said he expected the only way the unions would get the data would be via a Freedom of Information Law request “because the department is not voluntarily releasing that information on their own.”

Andy Ansbro, president of the UFA said, that even though an increasing number of his members had returned to work vaccinated, his rank and file wanted the union to continue its litigation because Firefighters believe Mr. de Blasio imposed terms and conditions of employment that should have been negotiated.

Won't Accept City's Terms

“We just don’t anticipate signing,” he said. “The members in the firehouse want us to keep the lawsuits going for their rights but also for the members on leave without pay. If we sign an agreement that they can be fired, it’s all for nothing at this point.”

He continued, “They created a new work condition and subset category where you are not suspended—you are not being disciplined but you can’t get paid and you can’t work, and it’s all totally outside the existing collective- bargaining agreement and outside the existing discipline structure.”


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