Unvaccinated city staff won't have to pay for rapid testing
It was supposed to be a nudge toward getting the shot.
As of December 1, all City of Calgary workers refusing to get vaccinated against COVID-19 were supposed to start paying for their own rapid tests.
Instead they'll keep getting the tests for free.
That, after the police chief said free tests supplied by the province to agencies and businesses around Alberta will be given to unvaccinated staff once those testing kits are acquired.
"What's happened is this inequity that's created between unions," said Calgary mayor Jyoti Gondek, "so when the other unions saw police offering it for their members, they came to the city manager and said this is unacceptable. How do you do this for one group of employees and not for another?"
Right now, the city has a vaccination rate among staff of 91.5 per cent. When you take out those who have medical or religious exemptions or are just waiting for a second dose just over 300 people are not vaccinated and don't intend to be.
The City of Calgary's municipal building. (Getty Images)
Christopher Collier is the city's Director of Environmental and Safety Management.
"The free test kits do have an expiry date." he says "So we've basically just extended that free period for a little bit longer. But there will come a day when we don't have any more supply."
Collier says the city has a two to three month supply of surplus tests, so for the near future they will continue to use them for unvaccinated staff.
INCENTIVE TO GET VACCINATED
However critics say forcing people to pay for their own tests was an incentive for them to get vaccinated.
Now that incentive is gone.
Alberta Health, which is providing the testing kits to municipalities, said it's not up to them to decide how the tests are used or distributed.
"This government likes to talk a tough game, but when actually they're put to the test, they usually turn tail and run," said NDP deputy leader Sarah Hoffman. "This is serious, and it has potentially deadly consequences when it continues to fluctuate like this, when we should be putting all our efforts into increasing uptake for vaccines for all age groups."
The province says it's not concerned about running out of tests. It says right now it's giving out six million of them and has another six million in storage.