An abnormally high number of New York firefighters have asked to be placed on sick leave in recent days, a “protest” against the compulsory vaccine deemed “inadmissible” Monday by their boss, but which does not upset the functioning of barracks.
A week ago, firefighters were strongly represented during a demonstration against the vaccine requirement of employees in New York City, which brought together several thousand people.
“Sick leave has increased and we know it’s a protest against this rule, it’s obvious,” New York fire chief Daniel Nigro said at a town hall press briefing at the first day when some 378,000 municipal employees in the city risk having their pay suspended if they are not vaccinated.
According to Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio, 9,000 employees were in this situation, while 12,000 requested medical or religious exemptions.
But sick leave, which concerned 2,300 firefighters on Monday (out of a total of 17,000 members) according to their leader, is a way to get around the sanction on the pay slip, he explained.
“In general 200 people come to the medical office every day, last week they were 700 a day. The majority of them are not vaccinated. This is totally unacceptable”, he added, while assuring that ‘”no barracks are closed”.
For its part, the main New York firefighters union posted photos of firefighters “sent home” on Twitter because they did not comply with the vaccination requirement.
“There are understaffed units. This understaffing could end immediately if firefighters ceased to be sick when they are not,” conceded Daniel Nigro.
The vaccination rate reached 80% on Sunday among the 17,000 firefighters of the city, against 60% on October 19, one of the lowest figures among the services of the city (96% in education, 84% in the police).
“We do not see any disturbances in the services of the city”, welcomed Bill de Blasio, who had nevertheless judged “unacceptable” a few days ago the mounds of trash accumulating on the sidewalks, in certain neighborhoods, and which had been interpreted as a sign of protest by the garbage collectors.