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DM firefighters dispute with city over sick days from vaccine side effects


The Des Moines Firefighters’ Union is upset that some of its members became ill after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine and have to use regular sick time while they recover. The union had a deal that the city could not county recovery from the COVID-19 vaccine as regular sick leave. But the deal was made before anyone knew how people would react to the vaccine. “The adverse effect of the shot is that our folks are getting sick, but it’s not necessarily within those first 24 hours,” said Joe Van Haalen, the president of the Des Moines Firefighters’ Union. Van Haalen said the union reached an agreement that the city would cover sick time for firefighters 24 hours after the COVID-19 vaccination. But many firefighters work 24 hours on, 48 hours off shifts. Nearly a dozen got sick after the 24-hour period. So the city made them use regular sick leave. “This wasn’t something they created on their own. This wasn’t a sickness. We are exposed to all kinds of things when we are responding to emergency calls. So it just seems like this would be a really easy one for the city to pick up and say, ‘Hey thanks or all you’ve done. We appreciate that you’re willing to go out and take the vaccination,'” Van Haalen said. The union didn’t get anywhere with the city and finally sent a tweet letting people know about the disagreement. KCCI contacted the City of Des Moines. City Manager Scott Sanders released a statement that said in part, “We are fortunate and pleased to have been some of the first to facilitate vaccinations in accordance with local and national guidelines. As recently as yesterday, the city was continuing the conversation regarding what is being done and what can be done to protect our frontline workers and assist them going forward, including continued evaluation of the side effects of vaccinations and how that impacts the workplace. That process and discussion will continue between the city and all our employee groups.”

The Des Moines Firefighters’ Union is upset that some of its members became ill after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine and have to use regular sick time while they recover.

The union had a deal that the city could not county recovery from the COVID-19 vaccine as regular sick leave. But the deal was made before anyone knew how people would react to the vaccine.

“The adverse effect of the shot is that our folks are getting sick, but it’s not necessarily within those first 24 hours,” said Joe Van Haalen, the president of the Des Moines Firefighters’ Union.

Van Haalen said the union reached an agreement that the city would cover sick time for firefighters 24 hours after the COVID-19 vaccination. But many firefighters work 24 hours on, 48 hours off shifts. Nearly a dozen got sick after the 24-hour period. So the city made them use regular sick leave.

“This wasn’t something they created on their own. This wasn’t a sickness. We are exposed to all kinds of things when we are responding to emergency calls. So it just seems like this would be a really easy one for the city to pick up and say, ‘Hey thanks or all you’ve done. We appreciate that you’re willing to go out and take the vaccination,'” Van Haalen said.

The union didn’t get anywhere with the city and finally sent a tweet letting people know about the disagreement.

KCCI contacted the City of Des Moines. City Manager Scott Sanders released a statement that said in part, “We are fortunate and pleased to have been some of the first to facilitate vaccinations in accordance with local and national guidelines. As recently as yesterday, the city was continuing the conversation regarding what is being done and what can be done to protect our frontline workers and assist them going forward, including continued evaluation of the side effects of vaccinations and how that impacts the workplace. That process and discussion will continue between the city and all our employee groups.”


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