The United Federation of Teachers is gearing up for a war with the city over the fate of more than 15,000 educators who have yet to receive the COVID-19 vaccination — with classes set to begin in days.
Teachers union chief Michael Mulgrew said Thursday that City Hall has vowed to remove all unvaccinated staffers from payroll without exception — including those with religious or medical objections.
“Our impact negotiations with the city have gone to a very bad place,” Mulgrew told reporters after a Town Hall with members. “It’s clear that the two sides are very very far apart when it comes to this vaccine mandate.”
The union said it would now seek to arbitrate the issue along with other labor groups.
While he has consistently urged members to get the shot, Mulgrew said the city’s position was unreasonably rigid — especially for those with legitimate medical concerns.
The union chief said that staffers who are allergic to the jabs or have compromised immune systems should not be financially penalized.
“The city’s position is to remove them from payroll.” he said. “That is disgusting as far as I’m concerned. And it does not follow the law. The law says that these accommodations and exemptions have to be in place.”
The UFT said the city’s policy would also strip unvaccinated teachers of their health insurance.
During his meeting with members, Mulgrew focused on religious and medical accommodations.
But he later told The Post that the procedure for teachers who don’t receive either exemption but still refuse the vaccine is still being negotiated.
While he was confident that more teachers would get vaccinated ahead of the school year, which beings on Sept. 13, Mulgrew acknowledged the specter of staffing shortages — and said the city has not adequately prepared for those contingencies.
Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross-Porter reiterated this week that substitutes could be marshaled if necessary.
In backing the vaccine mandate for all public school workers, Mayor Bill de Blasio has argued that it would help to combat outbreaks and minimize school interruptions.
“We know this is going to help ensure that everyone is safe,” he said in announcing the plan.
Some union factions have demanded blanket vaccinations, arguing that those who don’t get the shot are putting their colleagues and others at risk.
DOE staffers have until September 27 to get their first shot and an agency spokesperson said that an accord is within reach.
“The health and safety of New York City children and the protection of our employees is at the core of the vaccine mandate,” said spokesperson Danielle Filson. “We will continue to negotiate with the UFT to reach a successful agreement because that is what’s best for our school communities.”
As of last week, the city said that 72 percent of city teachers and 63 percent of all school staffers are confirmed to have been vaccinated.
The city has said that the number of vaccinated teachers is likely higher than the official numbers because many have gotten the shot through private doctors or out of town.
The UFT estimated the number of jabbed educators to be 80 percent.
Mulgrew acknowledged during the Town Hall that the vaccine mandate has riven his ranks, and asked members to dial down the internal rancor — especially on social media.
“Please be respectful of each other,” he said in urging unity ahead of the new academic year.