The New York City firefighters union has urged unvaccinated members to show up for work regardless of a controversial order by Mayor Bill de Blasio to place them on unpaid leave if they fail to get the COVID-19 shot.
“I have told my members that if they choose to remain unvaccinated, they must still report for duty,” Andrew Ansbro, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, said during a Wednesday press conference.
He noted New York City firefighters who have risked their own health to save lives during the coronavirus pandemic felt "insulted" by de Blasio’s mandate, which will take effect on Friday.
"If they are told they cannot work, it will be the department and city of New York that sends them home. And it will be the department and the city of New York that has failed to protect the citizens of New York."
The New York City Fire Department (FDNY) employs about 17,000 people, including firefighters, medical staff and other non-emergency personnel.
While around 68% of the department’s workforce has been immunized, New York could still see up to 20% of its fire units forced to shut down due to the mandate.
De Blasio has given some 50,000 employees of New York City a deadline of 5 p.m. on Friday to submit proof of vaccination against COVID-19. Those who fail to show proof could be sent home without pay.
US police and firefighters joined thousands of protesters against the controversial mandates who marched across the Brooklyn Bridge earlier this week against the move.
A New York State judge on Wednesday denied a police union request to temporarily block the mandate.
The Police Benevolent Association, which filed a lawsuit against the vaccine mandate on Monday, said the union would appeal Wednesday's decision by the state Supreme Court judge.
"Today's ruling sets the city up for a real crisis," Patrick Lynch, president of the police union, said late on Wednesday.
The FDNY said it plans to mitigate staffing shortages by enforcing mandatory overtime, canceling vacations and reassigning employees to other roles.