Negotiations continue between county and lawmakers over COVID-19 testing

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This story was originally published by the Independent from Santa Barbara and is reproduced here in partnership with Edhat.


By Tyler Hayden of The Independent

Negotiations continue between Santa Barbara County and the Deputy Sheriff’s Association (DSA), the employee union representing dozens of patrol deputies who have so far failed to comply with the COVID vaccine or testing policy. -19 county. The supervisory board adopted the mandate on September 1 and entered into force on October 18.

As of Monday, 161 lawmakers had chosen to receive weekly tests instead of being vaccinated, but only 37 signed up for testing, and none were swabbed.

Sgt. Neil Gowing, president of the Deputy Sheriff’s Association (DSA), the union of employees leading the negotiations, said the group still feels uncertain about the true “impacts and effects” of COVID-19 testing, including ” how the tests are going to be implemented, which test platform will be used, who will administer the tests, [and] what are the steps if there is a positive test.

Gowing took issue with the claim that MPs are simply rejecting their weekly exams. “I can assure you, however, that none of our unvaccinated employees refuse to be tested,” he said. As the ordinance went into effect last month, he explained, “There are a lot of details that need to be worked out before implementation.”

Gowing hopes any lingering questions from the union will be answered “soon,” he said, calling the talks with officials “vigorous.” “At the end of the day,” he said, “we want to do our part to help keep everyone safe, as we do every day in our capacity to work. ”

Supervisor Gregg Hart has expressed frustration that talks with the DSA drag on for weeks with no end in sight. He noted that all other unions of employees in the county, including those of firefighters, public works personnel, social services and others, accepted the mandate almost immediately after its implementation last month. “I expect all county employees to have public health consequences at the forefront of their minds,” Hart said. Of the county’s overall workforce, which has 4,564 members, 81.5 percent have been vaccinated.

Joseph M. Pisano, an employee relations manager in the county’s human resources department, said the breach of order was not in itself illegal, as the mandate took the form of a “policy. “and did not really change the Santa Barbara. Code of departmental ordinances. Nonetheless, he explained, “the county has the capacity to remedy non-compliance with the policy by working within the framework of the applicable civil service rules which govern the implementation of possible corrective disciplinary measures. These actions may include suspension, demotion or termination, depending on the rules.

At the county jail, where several outbreaks of COVID-19 have occurred during the pandemic, only 49% of guard officers are vaccinated, data shows. Gowing said, however, that all unvaccinated on-call deputies who are represented by a different union than the DSA – have undergone the required tests. Across the Sheriff’s Office, 62.4% of employees received their injections.


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