More than 1,000 city correction officers were still unvaccinated Tuesday afternoon, fewer than two hours before the Big Apple’s immunization-mandate deadline, The Post has learned.
If the unvaccinated officers don’t get a shot by 5 p.m., they will be put on unpaid leave — adding to the ongoing staffing crisis at Rikers Island.
Joining the 1,095 correction officers who had yet to receive a COVID-19 shot were 168 unvaccinated captains, according to union officials and the city Department of Correction.
Across the agency, 23 percent of workers, including the officers and captains, weren’t inoculated as of early Tuesday afternoon, the DOC said. Twenty-five percent of those not vaccinated are uniformed staffers, or about 2,200 workers, who will have to turn in their firearm, vests and shield if they choose to not get the vaccine, the agency said. Uniformed staff includes the officers and captains.
For months, Rikers Island has been engulfed in chaos as the DOC grappled with a ballooning inmate population, surge in staff retirements and widespread worker absenteeism brought on by the jail’s squalid, dangerous conditions and forced triple and quadruple shifts.
When Commissioner Vincent Schiraldi was appointed to helm the department over the summer, he promised to end the grueling work hours for staffers. But Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio paved the way for them to continue.
The lame-duck mayor signed an executive order allowing 12-hour tours, up from the regular 8-hour shifts, and “any other measures necessary to address the current staffing shortage” in anticipation of the vaccine mandate impacting jail operations.
Schiraldi, in a Monday news release announcing the transition to 12-hour tours, said, “The officers coming to work every day have gone above and beyond to support their city.
“While we hope every member of service understands how important it is to be vaccinated, we also recognize that we must be prepared. This is a step that other city agencies took and it’s one we felt was appropriate for us.”
The DOC has the lowest vaccination rate across the entire city’s work force at 77 percent. By comparison, the NYPD’s vaccination rate is 87 percent, and the FDNY’s is 92 percent, City Hall data shows.
Benny Boscio Jr., president of the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association, called the mayor’s executive order “nothing short of torture” and said the union is “preparing vigorous legal action” to fight it.
“The same Mayor who vowed that triple shifts were ending for Correction Officers in October is now guaranteeing every officer work 24 hours plus with this dangerous executive order,” Boscio Jr. said in a statement to The Post.
“To move forward with placing what little staff we do have on leave tomorrow would be like pouring gasoline on a fire, which will have a catastrophic impact on the safety of our officers and the thousands of inmates in our custody.
“We firmly believe that the staffing crisis created by Mayor de Blasio’s failure to hire more officers for three years makes it impossible for the DOC to put officers on leave without threatening the lives of our officers and the inmates in our custody,” the union chief said.
Patrick Ferraiuolo, president of the Correction Captains’ Association, said the DOC should have been spared the vaccination mandate, given the current staffing crisis.
“There is no reason we couldn’t have continued with weekly testing for staff that have not been vaccinated,” Ferraiuolo told The Post.
“At the end of the day, it is still their choice. I find it absurd that visitors who come to visit inmates and the inmates themselves are not mandated. What sense does that make?”
When the mandate first went into effect, just 46 percent of DOC staffers were vaccinated. Since then, the DOC has held town halls, hosted family days, distributed robocalls and offered a $500 incentive to bring the number up.
The DOC refused to answer how many applications they’ve received for reasonable accommodations, including for medical and religious reasons, and how many have been granted. The agency only said staffers will be permitted to work if their requests are still pending. If the application is denied, it can be appealed with the agency’s Office of Equal Employment Opportunity.
Additional reporting by Nolan Hicks