'Very Unusual': Thousands of NYC Firefighters Participate in ‘Sickout’ to Protest Vaccine Mandate

© REUTERS / MIKE SEGARA demonstrator uses a whistle during a protest by New York City Fire Department (FDNY) union members, municipal workers and others, against the city's COVID-19 vaccine mandates on Manhattan's Upper East Side, in New York City, New York, U.S., October 28, 2021
A demonstrator uses a whistle during a protest by New York City Fire Department (FDNY) union members, municipal workers and others, against the city's COVID-19 vaccine mandates on Manhattan's Upper East Side, in New York City, New York, U.S., October 28, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 01.11.2021
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New York City’s COVID vaccine mandate has reportedly sparked a concerning firefighter shortage after some 2,000 first responders took sick leave in protest of the city's jab order.
Frank Dwyer, the deputy commissioner of the New York City Fire Department, recently revealed via email that the number of firefighters simultaneously calling in sick was "very unusual."
New York City public employees are presently subject to a COVID vaccine mandate that provides no test-out option. The measure went into effect on October 29.
It is unclear what percentage of the more than 2,000 firefighters taking sick leave are doing so in protest of the mandate or are simply protecting their pocketbooks before complying with the mandate. Public employees in defiance of the mandate will be placed on unpaid leave, and by going on sick leave they will not face an immediate financial penalty.
New York Fire Department Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro has made clear that he is not pleased with firefighters opposing the mandate.

Nigro said, “Irresponsible bogus sick leave by some of our members is creating a danger for New Yorkers and their fellow firefighters,” adding that, "they need to return to work or risk the consequences of their actions."

Protesting the vaccine mandate is not popular among New York City firefighters, as the department employs roughly 11,000 firefighters. According to some estimates, under 20% of the department is participating in the so-called sickout.
While the Uniformed Firefighters Association (UFA), the union that represents FDNY firefighters, wants firefighters to defy the mandate, they did not officially call for the sickout. Andrew Ansbro, head of the UFA, said, "I have told my members that if they choose to remain unvaccinated, they must still report for duty."
Ansbro instead seeks to pressure the New York City government, suggesting that, "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."
While New York is said to be facing a temporary firefighter shortage, the city has made efforts to reward employees that get vaccinated. Any employee that gets a vaccination shot will immediately receive an additional $500 in their paycheck.
New York City has 8.5 million people and the New York City Fire Department responds to an estimated 2,200 structural fire calls each month. According to some critics, however, this is one fire that the department seems unprepared to put out.
Latest figures released by NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio indicate that 91% of city workers have been vaccinated, with some 72% of firefighters being vaccinated.
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