Port Authority to require covid-19 vaccination for all employees by mid-March

Pittsburgh's Port Authority to require covid-19 vaccination for all employees by mid-March

About 74% of the transit agency's 2,600 employees are already fully vaccinated.
January 10, 2022

By Megan Guza, The Tribune-Review

Port Authority of Allegheny County leaders will require all employees to be vaccinated against covid-19 by mid-March or face firing, officials said Monday.

There will be no option for increased testing requirements for those who aren't vaccinated.

The policy goes into effect Feb. 1, and employees must be fully vaccinated by March 15, said Port Authority spokesman Adam Brandolph. Booster shots will be strongly encouraged but not required, he said. Religious and medical exemptions will be considered and decided on a case-by-case basis.

About 74% of the transit agency's 2,600 employees are already fully vaccinated, he said. Vaccination has been a requirement of all new hires since October.

"With the recent surge of the omicron variant and the proven success of the vaccine against severe illness and death, it became clear to me that a vaccine requirement is the most effective way for us to protect our employees and riders," Port Authority CEO Katharine Kelleman said in a statement.

Any employee who is not fully vaccinated by March 16 and who has not received an exemption "could face discipline up to termination," Brandolph said.

Hundreds of trips across a number of routes have been affected in recent weeks as cases climb among Port Authority employees. Brandolph said the Port Authority's out-of-service rate rose to 4% in late December — about 200 trips affected per day.

"We've already seen what the virus has done to our service," Kelleman said, "and our riders can't afford to have even more missed trips and delays."

Ross V. Nicotero, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 85, which represents Port Authority employees, said in a video to members over the weekend that a mandate would have to go through collective bargaining.

"It's not just going to be imposed on us," he said.

Port Authority leadership has held on-site vaccination clinics and offered financial incentives to employees. They are offered $200 to be vaccinated and $100 for a booster shot. They receive $150 when the entire agency reaches 75% vaccinated and $150 at 85%.

Brandolph said officials are working with the union to finalize details regarding continued financial incentives and paid time off for those who experience side effects.

Port Authority has lost seven drivers to covid-19 since the pandemic began. Four died before the vaccine was widely available, Brandolph said. Three were not vaccinated.

Most recently, a driver out of the Collier garage — identified by ATU leadership as Dave Bojanac — died Jan. 3. He'd worked for Port Authority for five years.

Other Port Authority bus operators killed by the virus were: Marlon Lucas, who had 22 years of service; Patrick Hazlett and Andrew Hogan McNeill, both with eight years of service; John Majeski, 21 years of service; Sherman Smith, 11 years of service; and James McVeigh, 27 years of service.

Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 412-380-8519, mguza@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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