As mandatory vaccination policies continue to face legal challenges and union arbitration across Canada, a recent compilation of decisions shows it’s not looking good for workers forced off the job over Covid shots.
An article published by the labour law firm Mathews Dinsdale titled “Recent COVID-19 Vaccination Policy Decisions” looked at a number of rulings through March and April – none of which came out on the side of the employees. Many also saw arbitrators ruling against rapid testing as an alternative to vaccination, questioning the tests’ effectiveness against detecting Covid rather than the vaccines’ ability to prevent its spread.
“For now, it is clear the loosening of restrictions has not swayed arbitrators’ thinking that COVID-19 is still a large enough threat to the workplace to warrant mandatory vaccination policies,” the report reads.
The decisions came from arbitration hearings in Ontario and British Columbia, and involved private companies, public authorities and both national and provincial unions.
In a Mar. 17 ruling against Unifor, local 973, an arbitrator in Ontario upheld a vaccine mandate announced by Coca-Cola at its Brampton bottling plant in October, emphasizing the indoor location and close-quarters nature of the job and ruling it reasonable that noncompliant employees be placed on unpaid leave.
While rapid testing was allowed during January for employees without two shots, the option ended on Feb. 1. The arbitrator noted that the combined testing/vaccination regime had not prevented large-scale Covid infections, but attributed the failure of safety precautions to the reliability of testing rather than the vaccines themselves.
Another Ontario decision on Mar. 22 saw an arbitrator side with the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) against employees represented by CUPE, Local 4400. The vaccination policy – which required all employees with direct contact with students and staff at TDSB buildings to have two shots by Nov. 1 – was rescinded only three days before the ruling.
As with the previous decision, the arbitrator ruled that rapid testing did not provide the same level of protection as vaccines against Omicron strain of COVID and that vaccination was “a reasonable rule and appropriate condition of employment.”
In B.C. on Mar. 21, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 258 failed to defend employees forced off of work…
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