Any firefighters who pose as sick to protest New York City’s Covid-19 vaccine mandate are “doing an enormous disservice” to the city, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday night.
The remark came after hundreds of firefighters called in sick on Monday as the vaccine mandate went into effect, bringing the total number of sickouts in the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) to 2,300, according to Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro at a news conference.
Members of the fire and police departments, as well as other city employees, had until 5 p.m. Friday to show proof of at least one vaccine dose or face being placed on unpaid leave. The same mandate already applied to city health care and education employees.
“The folks who are out sick and really aren’t sick — the folks who are faking it — are doing an enormous disservice to the people of this city and to their fellow members of service,” de Blasio said during a Spectrum NY1 interview, adding, “We will make sure there are consequences for that.”
The FDNY-Firefighters Association, which opposes the mandate, speculated that firefighters may be on sick leave as a result of reactions to receiving the vaccine over the weekend.
However, the mayor stated that the city was investigating whether the firefighters’ union had coordinated any “sick-out.”
“If the union coordinates — in any way — a job action, that is a violation of the Taylor Law,” de Blasio said, referencing a New York State Law that prohibits public employees from striking.
The mayor stated that the city was ready to “go to court immediately” if there was an alleged Taylor Law violation.
“At some point, responsible, decent people who claim to believe in American values have to recognize that there has been due process, democracy has occurred,” de Blasio said of the mandates. “The people have spoken.”
Despite the large number of firefighters who called in sick, de Blasio stated that New Yorkers were safe.
“There are a lot of fire department members — there’s a lot of redundancy,” he said, adding that scheduled training and maintenance were canceled Monday to maximize the number of on-duty firefighters. “Response time has been extremely fast.” Nigro, the FDNY commissioner, stated earlier Monday at a news conference that 18 fire units out of 350 were out of service, but no firehouses were closed.
“It’s a dangerous job, so if you’re sick, you’re sick. I understand. I’d like to see you back at work if you’re not sick “Nigro stated.
“Once the members come to their senses and stop abusing medical leave,” Nigro added, “they will be able to help not only the citizens of the city, but also their brothers and sisters who staff these units.”
According to city data, 77 percent of FDNY firefighters had received a vaccine as of Monday morning, up from 58 percent when the vaccine mandate was announced on October 20. Employees of the FDNY’s Emergency Management Services are now vaccinated at an 88 percent rate, up from 61 percent.
President of the FDNY-Firefighters Association Andrew Ansbro said Monday morning that he didn’t know how many firefighters would be unable to work because they were still unvaccinated, claiming that the FDNY doesn’t share those figures with them.
“I don’t have a count of how many firefighters have become ill, but I do know that hundreds of them have received their Covid vaccination in the last few days. No one should be expected to work less than their full potential. Everyone is aware that the vaccine causes mild flu-like symptoms on a regular basis, so these employees are not reporting to work with those symptoms “Ansbro stated.
According to him, the vaccine mandate is “causing an exodus” of firefighters from the department, and the remaining firefighters will “have to work to the breaking point” to make up for staffing shortages. According to Ansbro, the union is “not anti-vaccine; we are anti-mandate.”
President of the FDNY-Fire Officers Association, Jim McCarthy, stated Monday morning that “all we are asking for is extra time” regarding the city mandate, so that their members have more time to decide whether to get the vaccine, file any religious or medical exemptions, or potentially retire.
McCarthy stated that the previous policy of testing unvaccinated FDNY members for Covid-19 was effective.