Vaccination deadline extended for Encinitas firefighters, negotiations continue
ENCINITAS – The city has already instituted a vaccination mandate for all municipal employees, but negotiations with the Encinitas Fire Brigade Association on a similar mandate are still ongoing.
A city spokesperson recently told The Coast News that the deadline set by the Encinitas Fire Department for sworn firefighters to receive vaccines has been extended until January 31 to keep the dialogue open between the two parts.
Julie Taber, the city’s public information officer, told The Coast News that there are currently no staffing issues at the Encinitas Fire Department, but that could change if a warrant for a vaccine was in place.
Nationally, unions of public safety officers have negotiated with cities and municipalities over COVID-19 vaccine mandates. In Los Angeles this week, the local firefighters union has publicly expressed its opposition to a mandate and called on the city to allow its members to choose to accept regular testing instead of a vaccine instead.
This month in New York, thousands of firefighters called in sick for work to protest against the city’s vaccination mandate. Other cities, like Seattle, which recently reported that more than 90% of its firefighters had been vaccinated before a deadline, did not see any staffing issues for public safety officers or first responders.
As for Encinitas, Taber said the city was not concerned about potential fire personnel issues at this time. When positions have become vacant in the past, Taber said Encinitas has “traditionally staffed non-fire operations with a mix of internal city staff and consultants. As a result, we supplement with consulting staff when we have vacancies when possible. “
According to Taber, given that many other municipalities choose to implement a vaccination mandate for city employees, the city does not anticipate many departures.
“Other things that employees take into account before leaving a job are the abandonment of seniority, benefits, pension plans, and so on. The City offers exceptional benefits and working conditions, ”said Taber. “City council and management remain optimistic that the city will reach an agreement on vaccine needs with the firefighters union. “
The city’s contract with the Encinitas Firefighters Association includes a minimum staffing provision if a staff member were to withdraw from work due to a vaccination warrant or for any other reason.
The provision states that whenever a member of the fire personnel is absent from work (i.e. sick, state or federal strike team, COVID-19 contracts, quarantine), another firefighter replace the overtime shift.
Taber also told The Coast News that if staff issues arose, the issue would be dealt with by city fire chief Mike Stein.
As discussions continue, the fire chief will be responsible for identifying and dealing with any potential personnel changes that may arise if the City is unable to come to an agreement with the union, ”Taber said. “We’re not there yet.”
The Coast News was unable to reach a representative of the Encinitas Firefighters Association for comment.