Unions fight back against mandatory vaccines

The city will put unvaccinated workers on unpaid leave

Unions fight back against mandatory vaccines

Ottawa has begun implementing their mandatory vaccine policy that could place workers on leave, or even dismiss them, if they failed to comply - a new rule that’s come up against resistance from four different unions. According to Ottawa's mandate, unvaccinated staff will need to get their first shot by September 15 and their second dose by October 15. All workers employed by the city government will need to be fully vaccinated by November 1. Exemptions can be made as long as there is written proof of a valid medical reason from a doctor or a nurse practitioner, according to the mandate.

"Employees who refuse to comply with the requirements of this policy will not be permitted in the workplace and may be subject to a variety of consequences, which can include leave without pay or discipline, up to and including dismissal," the memo read as posted by Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson.

The mandate said employees will be required to disclose their vaccination status, with a new technology solution on the way for the safe collection and storage of relevant information.

However, this new policy from wasn’t received warmly by some employees, as four unions representing municipal workers filed grievances against it. CBC reported that the unions are the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) 279, ATU 1760, and Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) 5500, which represent transit and transportation workers. CUPE 503 also filed a grievance representing health-care workers, trades people, and librarians.                             

Read more: Ottawa to address loophole in COVID-19 sickness benefit

Clint Crabtree, president of ATU 279, denied that the filing of grievances was a coordinated action by the unions. He told CBC in an interview that it is only protecting the rights of its members, and the union does not want to see its members on unpaid leave because of their refusal to get the jabs.

Crabtree said the union does not have a position on the vaccinations. However, it was one of the groups that previously called on the government to get workers prioritised in getting the jabs.

The union will present its grievance next week, while the city government will make a decision over it after two weeks, CBC reported.

The government has defended its mandate saying it is a way to protect both residents and employees as the threat of the Delta variant grows. 

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