Spokane officials agree to allow unvaccinated firefighters to return to non-medical jobs

The number of vacancies in the Spokane Fire Department due to Governor Jay Inslee’s vaccination mandate continues to decline.

The City of Spokane and the Spokane Fire Brigade Union have reached an agreement that will bring three unvaccinated workers back to the posting and one to the fire department.

According to city spokesman Brian Coddington, a fire mechanic can also go back to work thanks to updated instructions from the Ministry of Health.

The unvaccinated employees “must comply with current mask requirements indoors and are not allowed to work in the healthcare sector,” Coddington said. They also undergo regular COVID-19 tests, according to Randy Marler, president of the Spokane Firefighters Union Local 29.

“We’re happy that the city is working with us to try to find places. We didn’t think the governor’s mandate extended to positions in the department that didn’t provide emergency medical care, ”Marler said.

Another employee on leave has opted for a Covid 19 vaccination.

In a 331-job department, there are only six employees left who have retired or quit and 10 who have opted for one of the several vacation options offered by the city before Inslee kicks in October’s health care worker vaccination deadline .

The workers on leave remain in good standing with the city and can go back to work after vaccination.

Negotiations between the city and the fire service union continued after Inslee’s October 18 deadline.

The new premises bring the department’s mandate loyalty to around 95%.

The city granted 52 exemptions to firefighters for religious or medical reasons, but refused to provide shelter to the vast majority of them. His firm stance contrasted with departments like Spokane Valley, which have chosen to group their unvaccinated firefighters into two wards and force them to undergo routine COVID-19 tests.

Several unvaccinated firefighters asked a federal court to issue an injunction to block the city’s execution of the mandate, but a judge denied it last month.

“The city’s public interest in preventing death surely outweighs the public interest in alleged civil rights violations,” said US District Court judge Thomas O. Rice.

The majority of firefighters who have been granted exemptions have since withdrawn them.

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