Haverhill Adopts Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccination Policy for City Workers, Begins Jan. 23

Haverhill City Hall. (WHAV News file photograph.)

About 450 City of Haverhill employees have less than two weeks to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, face mandatory weekly testing or be subject to disciplinary action for doing neither.

For those already fully vaccinated and those who come into compliance with the new city rule by March 4 will receive an incentive of $500 from federal American Rescue Plan Act money. Mayor James J. Fiorentini said the recent spike in virus cases forced him to act now.

“We’ve been talking to the unions in the impact bargaining for some number of months. When I saw the numbers skyrocketing with the omicron variant, that we absolutely had to do something. We’re going to go ahead and implement this policy. Some of the unions have agreed, some have questions and some, at this point, are not agreeing,” he told WHAV Monday.

The deadline for employees—including full- and part-time, union and non-union and several seasonal and temporary employees—is Sunday, Jan. 23. School workers are covered under a separate agreement. For those who opt for weekly testing, free testing is available from the city. Fiorentini explained 11 unions are in agreement, three are still in discussions and the status of one union is unknown.

City workers, except elected officials, are required to notify supervisors of any positive test results or close contact with others who test positive must stay out of work and may be required to show negative test results before returning. The mayor called this his “carrot and stick” approach.

“It’s a carrot in terms that you get $500 one-time stipend and it is also, frankly, a stick. It’s a big inconvenience to have to go an get tested every single week,” he said.

Besides spiking case counts, the mayor said there are two other reasons for pushing the policy now.

“We’ve absolutely had difficulty staffing departments. It’s been a struggle and we need to do everything possible—A) to protect our employees. I have had employees come to me who said ‘Look, mayor, everybody in our department is vaccinated except one person, and we can’t have this,’ and we have to protect the public,” he said.

The city’s Human Resources Department will consider, on a case-by-case basis, objections for medical reasons or “sincerely held religious beliefs,” according to the policy.

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