ENCINITAS — The City of Encinitas followed through on its mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy on Thursday by placing all non-vaccinated workers on unpaid leave for the next month, according to a city spokesperson.
Both union and non-union employees were subject to temporary dismissal without pay if they could not provide proof of their vaccination status by Oct. 7, which was previously announced in a signed agreement between the city and SEIU representatives in late August.
The city gave notice to those who did not comply with the mandate that they have been placed on unpaid leave for 30 days, according to a statement by Julie Taber, the city’s public information officer. Employees who remain unvaccinated after the 30-day period will be terminated for noncompliance.
According to the city, less than 6% of employees had not been vaccinated but the city has not yet provided a specific number of workers placed on unpaid leave.
“I want to thank the employees that have done their part to keep the community and fellow employees safe by getting vaccinated,” said City Manager Pamela Antil. “While the number and severity of cases in San Diego County continue to improve, COVID-19 is still very much a threat. It is everyone’s responsibility to do their part to keep themselves and those around them safe and healthy.”
“We at the City of Encinitas are holding ourselves to a higher standard of safety,” said Mayor Catherine Blakespear. “We do not want to be the cause of any infections and we know the vaccine is the best way to stop the spread of coronavirus. We want people to have the confidence when they come into City Hall to conduct business or when our employees enter their homes that we are doing all we can to protect them.”
Negotiations and talks remain ongoing with respect to the city’s fire union, which represents 50 employees, including firefighters and paramedics against the mandatory vaccine requirement but who have agreed to have the remaining 36% of unvaccinated employees submit to weekly testing.
Last week, the Encinitas City Council recently approved a wellness incentive program that provides a one-time payment of either $2,000 or $2,500 to vaccinated employees.
Antil previously told The Coast News that approximately $266,000 of the program’s cost will be paid via salary savings from the city’s general fund. However, it remains unclear if those projected salaries were based primarily on wages freed up from this round of temporary dismissals.
The remainder of the program, which is expected to cost an additional $383,500 (if every employee gets vaccinated) will be funded with money from the American Rescue Plan.
During the Sept. 29 joint meeting, a small group of protestors decrying mandatory vaccines met across the street from City Hall and told The Coast News they were asked to be there by unnamed individuals inside the Encinitas Fire Department.
The Coast News has heard several reports of employees expressing frustration by the city’s actions and is working to speak with any workers placed on leave.