New Dayton vaccine policy starts; some police officers sent home, Union says

DAYTON — UPDATE 4:51 P.M. (NOV. 1):

Union leaders and city officials wrapped up a meeting this afternoon around 4 p.m. with no change in city policy.

Police leaders said at least some of the department’s officers were sent home today after refusing to vaccinate or test, but didn’t provide an exact number.

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Fire union leaders were not sure if any firefighters had been sent home from their shifts.

Both police and fire unions said they did not have any staff members call off Monday, meaning everyone showed up for their shifts and if anyone left it was at the direction of city supervisors.

News Center 7 has asked for a number of city staff who were sent home due to the new vaccination policy, but have not received that data yet.

UPDATE 2 P.M. (NOV. 1):

Police and fire union leaders were seen by News Center 7 entering city hall this morning for a meeting with city representatives.

It was not clear what was on the table for discussion, however union leaders have said they would like a change in policy to make the policy that went into place an optional vaccine status disclosure and optional testing. City leaders have insisted they will move forward and emphasized the policy is to protect city workers and the public.

Both police and fire union leaders assured News Center 7 they would show up for scheduled shifts today, the first day of the new COVID-19 vaccination policy.

INITIAL REPORT (OCT. 29):

The unions representing Dayton’s police officers and firefighters said the city is facing a potential “public safety nightmare” when the city’s vaccination policy goes into effect today, however the city says it is prepared.

Union leaders said firefighters and police officers will show up on the Monday deadline, but many may be unwilling to disclose their vaccination status and could be sent home from work.

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Dayton city leaders in August announced that employees with the city will be required to be fully vaccinated or be subjected to weekly COVID-19 testing. The deadline was moved back twice, now today, Nov. 1.

“We have never not been able to accommodate the city, whether its been financial, personnel, whatever, we have bent over backwards and will continue to bend over backwards, You know why? Because we care about the citizens of Dayton, we care about their public safety,” said Kraig Robinson, President, IAFF Local 136.

Dayton FOP President Jerry Dix said if the city manager and human resources director were concerned they would have spoken with the unions during the process of planning a policy and not after it had been developed.

“He said they spoke with the unions. That’s not true, they spoke at us,” Dix said in August.

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Last week, Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein said she was “extremely disappointed with the comments made this morning by union leaders representing our safety forces.”

“While the testing start date has changed due to the test availability and to allow more employees the opportunity to get vaccinated, the new testing protocol was discussed months ago with all union leadership,” Dickstein said.

The city said both the fire and police departments have put together contingency plans for staffing and “will use all means at their disposal to ensure public safety for our residents if large numbers of employees are not on the job as scheduled.”

Dickstein said the city held a series of meetings in August to discuss details of the planned testing mandate.

“Based on these discussions, the City made several changes to the original proposed policy,” the city said late Thursday afternoon. “These changes included: delaying the initial announcement of the policy to all employees while discussions continued; pushing the start date back to allow employees more time to obtain a vaccination; the City bearing all costs associated with testing; and several other concessions.”

“We’re not mandating vaccines. If somebody has already had their vaccine, we will not require the weekly testing,” City Manager Shelley Dickstein said last Friday. She added that more than 70 percent of the city’s staff had been vaccinated. “That’s a good number.”

However, new data released by the city Thursday afternoon showed of the nearly 1,800 city employees, 773 are not vaccinated or failed to disclose their vaccination status, meaning approximately 57 percent of the city’s staff is vaccinated. Of the 773 employees who are not vaccinated or have not disclosed their vaccination status, 464 are from the police and fire departments, the city said

Union leaders estimated that as many as 300 police officers and firefighters might decide not to disclose their personal information or submit to testing, and then could be sent home from work without pay.

“So you tell me, we show up to work Monday and the city of Dayton sends us home, who cares about public safety?,” Robinson said.

The city said that is what will happen if workers refuse to test.

“Employees who refuse to test will be sent home on unpaid leave until they provide a negative PCR COVID-19 test obtained through their own resources,” the city said. “Employees who do not show up for work without prior authorization are considered absent without official leave (AWOL) and will be disciplined accordingly.”

The issue could reach a crisis point Monday morning, Union leaders said.

The unions in a news conference Thursday said they believe the city is not within their rights to unilaterally impose this policy. They believe the policy should have been collectively bargained.

Robinson and other union leaders said they are hopeful that some type of agreement could be reached, either moving the deadline back or not requiring union employees to disclose vaccination status.