Over the last two months there have been many questions regarding mandatory vaccination policies in workplaces, Unifor National’s vaccination policy and the Ontario governments vaccination mandate. I would like to take a moment to address these concerns and provide pertinent information to our membership as we move forward through these challenging times.
First, I will address the Ontario Double Vaccination Mandate. As of today, September 22nd, 2021, the Ontario government requires that individuals provide proof of double vaccination (two doses plus 14 days) along with photo ID to access certain public settings and facilities. The Government believes this approach focuses on higher-risk indoor public settings where face coverings cannot always be worn and includes the following:
· Restaurants and bars (excluding outdoor patios, as well as delivery and takeout);
· Nightclubs (including outdoor areas of the establishment);
· Meeting and event spaces, such as banquet halls and conference/convention centres;
· Facilities used for sports and fitness activities and personal fitness training, such as gyms, fitness, and recreational facilities with the exception of youth recreational sports;
· Sporting events;
· Casinos, bingo halls and gaming establishments;
· Concerts, music festivals, theatres, and cinemas
The highlighted text applies specifically to the Local Union Hall meeting space. This mandate forces the Local Union Hall to ensure that members attending General Membership meetings, Executive Board meetings, Unit Council meetings, Unit meetings, etc. are double vaccinated to participate.
Secondly, the Unifor National Executive Board is finalizing the development of their double vaccination policy. Currently, Unifor National has mandated that all National Staff Representatives, members attending Port Elgin Education, members participating in Ontario Regional Council, Canadian Council, Auto Council, and members participating in events at Local Union Halls where the Local represents health care units, must be double vaccinated. Local 199 represents Paramed and Pleasant Manor, two separate health care units. The Unifor National Mandate therefore applies to our Local Hall and members who are coming to the Hall to access Representatives must provide proof of double vaccination.
I am reminding all members who come to the Hall for any reason to remember that our Administration Staff should not bear the brunt of any dispute over mandatory vaccination policies imposed by the Government and the National Union.
Lastly, there have been concerns regarding potential double vaccination workplace policies. So far, outside of our healthcare units, there have been no workplace vaccination policies implemented. However, the potential remains, and I believe it is important to inform the membership of their rights. After consulting the Unifor Legal team it has been concluded that an employee has the right to choose not to be vaccinated. Most experts at this time agree that workplace policies are likely to be deemed reasonable via the KVP test. This is a test that was established in a court ruling in 1965 to determine if a policy that is unilaterally imposed on unionized workers is legitimate. The test is made up of 6 parts and has been used by arbitrators for decades:
1. It must not be inconsistent with the collective agreement
2. It must not be unreasonable
3. It must be clear and unequivocal
4. It must be brought to the attention of the employee affected before the company can act on it
5. The employee concerned must have been notified that a breach of the rule could result in their discharge (if the rule is used as a basis for discharge)
6. It should have been consistently enforced by the company from the time it was introduced
Therefore, members who choose not to be vaccinated will likely face serious employment consequences. These may include being held out of work without pay or even dismissal from employment. Members need to be aware that such policy decisions will be difficult to overturn as a grievance or at arbitration.
It should be noted that Companies such as Bell, Air Canada, Rankin Construction, Great Wolf Lodge, and others are in the process of implementing such policies and that healthcare sectors were mandated by the Ontario government to have these policies in place since September 7th, 2021.
I invite all members with questions or concerns to email me at President@Unifor199.org and I will do my best to provide answers as we work through the challenges presented by COVID-19.
Stay healthy and safe.
Jordan Lennox, President
Unifor Local 199