Union calls for accommodations for vaccine-exempt workers

YEU said it refused to budge on its stance

Union calls for accommodations for vaccine-exempt workers

The Yukon Employees' Union (YEU) has remained firm on its stance against what it described as a "punitive" vaccination policy in the territory. YEU said in a statement that while it supported the Yukon government's mandatory vaccination rule, it stressed that members with medical exemptions should be given proper alternatives to the jabs.

"Yukon Employees’ Union supports the enhanced workplace safety a vaccination policy can provide, but we also support the rights of our members who are medically unable to be vaccinated," said the union. “For those who choose not to accept the vaccine, we believe that the employer has an obligation to consider alternatives to leave without pay or disciplinary action, including remote work, PPE and rapid testing.”

The statement comes after the Yukon government mandated federal employees and front-line health workers to be fully immunised against COVID-19 by November 30. Proof of vaccination will also be required for non-essential services in the territory starting November 30, according to a government press release.

"This mandatory vaccine requirement will allow us to ensure a safe working environment for our employees, including our healthcare workers, while protecting the health and safety of the members of the public we serve every day, especially our most vulnerable populations," added Premier Sandy Silver.  

Read more: ‘No more wiggle room!’ Unions welcome vaccine mandate delay

However, the mandate was met with a grievance letter from the YEU, saying that the government failed to consult with unions and consider less invasive alternatives. It added that it also failed to "consider all important aspects of implementing such a term and condition of employment."

"YEU is not budging; this employer must respect its workers. We will not agree to any mandate that is punitive in practice," said the union in a later statement. "The decision at the Government of Yukon is key as other employers will follow their lead. The ramifications of this policy will affect all Yukon workers."

In response to the letter, Public Service Commission Minister John Streicker said he will get back to the YEU before Friday over the public health information.

"We are giving your requests serious consideration. Based on shared information and further conversations with YEU and YTA (Yukon Teachers' Association), we will then determine what decisions we will be taking. As discussed in the meeting the Public Service Commission is treating this as our highest priority," Streicker said in his email that was released by the union.

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