The Regional District of Central Kootenay will ask all its employees for their vaccination status, but their jobs will not be in jeopardy if they are not vaccinated.
By Dec. 3, employees must provide proof of vaccination or a confidential letter stating they are not vaccinated. This applies to all 350 employees of the RDCK and about 300 volunteer firefighters.
Connie Saari-Heckley, RDCK human resources manager, speaking to the RDCK board when it approved the policy on Nov. 18, described the policy as “an enhanced safety protocol that would apply if people are either not vaccinated or not willing to demonstrate that they’re vaccinated.”
According to the policy, anyone who is not vaccinated must wear a mask at all times, including when working alone at a workstation.
The RDCK will consider whether it is possible for an unvaccinated person to work from home. If that is not possible, the RDCK may ask employees working near the employee to wear a mask, or provide the employee with a workstation far from other workers.
“The policy is not intended to be punitive,” Saari-Heckley said. “It’s intended to provide options for enhanced safety protocols … from a health and safety perspective.”
Employees who cannot provide proof of vaccination will not be allowed to teach certain recreation classes to the public.
Anyone requesting a vaccination exemption must also provide a doctor’s letter.
Director Diana Lockwood, representing the Village of Salmo, said the policy goes too far. She said her adult son has been working hard to get an exemption for health reasons but cannot get one.
“I’m very passionate that this is unfair … I’m speaking against this policy for the simple fact that we don’t know everybody’s story. I get that we want to feel safe, but there is no proof that is going to make the next person safe.”
Director Joseph Hughes, representing the Village of Nakusp, was also against the policy.
“I am absolutely, vehemently opposed to even asking the question if a staff member has had a vaccination or not. I think we should avoid that as a personal health choice.”
Director Andy Davidoff of Electoral Area I (the rural area from Glade to Pass Creek and Brilliant), supported the policy, describing it as “probably the gentlest, most understanding, most accommodating policy that I’ve seen anywhere in the province.”
In her introduction to the policy, Saari-Heckley stated that the public often asks for assurance that staff offering recreation services are vaccinated.
The Capitol Regional District (Victoria) and the Columbia Shuswap Regional District have mandated that their employees must be vaccinated. Some municipalities in B.C. have done the same, including Vancouver, Kelowna, Penticton, and Creston.
The RDCK runs public recreation centres in Castlegar, Creston and Nelson. Its responsibilities in the rural areas also include water systems, transit, waste management, septic systems, emergency programs, fire protection, economic development, land-use planning, building inspection, airports, community halls, campgrounds, parks, and grants to community organizations.