Monday, November 29, 2021

Seattle employees and departments are under pressure from vaccine staffing.

The vaccine introduction in Seattle has put hundreds of vaccinated city workers on more than two weeks of leave, exacerbating staff shortages in key departments and drawing criticism from injured employees.

Mayor Jenny Durcan has demanded that all city employees working at the facility be vaccinated against COVID-19 by October 18. Although more than 90% of employees were vaccinated and continued to work as usual, more than 500 people received or applied for exemptions for religious or medical reasons. and are on vacation hoping to get housing to keep their jobs.

As of Monday, the departments with the most employees on leave were the Seattle Police Department, with 100 employees; Seattle City Light – 82, Seattle Utilities – 70, and Seattle Fire Department – 55.

For departments like SFD, where 5% of employees are on vacation, the order puts new pressure on already stressed staff.

“It is important to understand that when we started this mandate after October 18, we were not 100% staffed, so this exacerbates the problems,” Chief Harold Scoggins said last week, noting that there were about 75 vacancies in the department. before the mandate. …

With these vacancies and roughly 29 people scheduled for a given day and 10-30 firefighters on vacation at any given time due to injury or other circumstances, the department aims to staff 220 firefighters on a given day.

“So all of these things are mixed up every single day before we start fulfilling the mandate,” said Scoggins. “And then … if we just look at the last month, I think we have over 30 events that we have organized all over the city, and that’s all that [University of Washington] Husky games, Seahawks, Sailors until the end of the season, Kraken, concerts. “

So far, according to Scoggins, the department has been able to deliver on its commitments by volunteering to work overtime.

According to SFD, department employees worked an average of over 11,000 overtime hours each week over a four-week period from September 28 to October. 25. Their number increased each of the four weeks, starting at 10,433 and reaching 11,601.

But Scoggins says the number of hours left for staff to compensate for the shortfall is not acceptable.

“It was an exhausting 20 months for our people because, if you remember, we never stopped coming. We’ve never worked from home, ”said Scoggins.

Even so, the department has not worked up to 10 units on any given day in those four weeks, and it prepares to address any voluntary reductions in overtime or further understaffing.

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Likewise, SPD has moved to an emergency staffing model to accommodate 100 staff, 93 of whom are jury officers on leave as part of the release process.

“While we are working to achieve 100% vaccination compliance with the Seattle Police Department, this may have some impact on the level of our services, especially as we have lost staff over the past two years,” SPD said in a written statement. after the mandate took effect. the effect.

According to a department spokesman, the SPD is currently in phase 3 of an emergency mobilization in response to the number of staff on leave, which could result in a “full deployment of all jury personnel on duty, including investigators and other uniformed personnel.” section personnel “according to the SPD instructions.

“To this end, the department has developed a series of plans to provide the best possible service, including first replenishing the patrol with community response officers before detectives and other non-patrol officers are asked to return to the streets. “, – said in a statement.

The current state of staffing drew criticism from the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild last week, as the union filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the Washington State Public Affairs Commission, accusing the city of not allowing proper negotiations in the mandate process. and demanded that covered employees be allowed to return to the status quo.

Durkan’s office refused to consider the SPOG complaint on several occasions, but doubled the importance of vaccinations.

“Earlier, the mayor made it very clear that she considers vaccination important and you cannot work safely without vaccination,” Durkan chief of staff Stephanie Formas said in a telephone interview Friday.

Late Friday night, Durcan signed an emergency order that provides hiring bonuses of up to $ 25,000 for lateral recruits and $ 10,000 for newly hired officers and staff for SPD and the Public Safety and Communications Center. (CSCC).

But some of these employees, facing vacation or layoffs, consider Durcan’s move to be disingenuous.

Marina Shinderuk, who has worked at the CSCC for over 13 years and received a religious exemption from her mandate, said Friday she was told she would not be allowed to work remotely.

Shinderuk says the mayor’s hiring bonuses are a “slap in the face” for those who have lost or may lose their jobs due to the vaccination mandate.

“A city that cites ‘unjustified deprivation’ as a reason for denying housing to those who have received benefits, and then offers incentives for new employees while we are still waiting for layoffs, is a parody,” Shinderuk said on Wednesday.

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