Voices United: A newsletter on the mandatory vaccination policy

Dear Sisters, Brothers and Members of OPSEU Local 500,

On Monday, August 30th 2021, the employer emailed all CAMH staff the Mandatory Vaccination Policy it will be enforcing beginning on September 7th, 2021.  If you have not yet had the opportunity to read it, please reach out to the Local office, and we will forward it to you.

Since Monday, many of you have called or emailed the office with concerns and questions.  I have taken all of these questions to Carrie Fletcher, the Vice President of People and Experience.  I will keep asking them until I get responses for them.  Some of these questions are;

  • Will I be eligible for EI benefits after I am placed on an unpaid leave of absence?
  • How long after I am placed on an unpaid leave of absence will it be until I am terminated?
  • What will happen to my pension and benefit contributions while I am on an unpaid leave of absence
  • Will my College or Regulatory body be advised of my refusal to be vaccinated?  Will this have impacts on my license?
  • Will being placed on an unpaid leave of absence impact my seniority?

I would encourage you to reach out to the office with your questions and concerns.  If I do not immediately have an answer, I will get it for you as quickly as I can.

Some other questions that have come to the Local were answered in an OPSEU FAQ that was released by OPSEU Head Office this morning (Blue text).  I hope this information is helpful.

Frequently Asked Questions About Mandatory Vaccinations

September 2, 2021 – 9:34 AM

With the fourth wave of the COVID-19 crisis upon us, many employers in Ontario have been developing workplace policies calling for mandatory vaccines and testing. The Ford Government has also announced a vaccine passport will be brought in this month.

As members continue to navigate these challenging times and, in many cases, plan their own return to the traditional workplace, they have asked OPSEU/SEFPO about these policies, and their impact on workers’ personal health choices and working conditions.

Here are some of the most commonly-asked questions and answers about mandatory vaccinations:


Question: Can my employer implement mandatory vaccination against COVID-19 in my workplace?

Answer: Yes. Employers are entitled to implement rules in the workplace, including rules about vaccinations, so long as they meet certain criteria. Employer rules must be reasonable and they must not violate the explicit provisions of a Collective Agreement or any statutes.

Vaccine polices in many OPSEU/SEFPO workplaces are likely to be considered reasonable due to the ongoing health crisis, the nature of our work, and the recent government mandates requiring vaccine policies for many of the workplaces we represent.

Employers still have an obligation to comply with the Human Rights Code, and to accommodate members under its provisions, if they cannot receive a vaccine because of a medical condition or other grounds that are protected by the Code. Much like the obligation to wear masks, we fully expect that the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) and Labour Arbitrators will require evidence of a need for accommodation beyond an applicant simply disagreeing with the safety or efficacy of the vaccine.

Question: Can my employer implement mandatory testing for COVID-19?

Answer: Yes. Testing for COVID-19 is very likely to be considered a reasonable health and safety measure for the foreseeable future, especially in workplaces where employees have any significant contact with the public, with colleagues or with supervisors.

Question: Will employees be forced to pay, out-of-pocket, for their testing?

Answer:  This will depend on several factors, including the provisions of the Collective Agreement and the contents of the employer’s own policy. For example, if employers require all employees to get tested at regular intervals, the union would have a strong argument against members having to pay. The same applies to a medical accommodation. However, that argument isn’t as strong if someone simply does not want to get vaccinated.

Currently, the directives from Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health do not require employers to pay for the testing of employees who do not wish to be vaccinated.

Question: Can employees be disciplined for refusing the vaccine, or testing?

Answer: Yes, under certain circumstances. If the employer has implemented a reasonable rule, an employee may be disciplined if they refuse to follow it, including rules about vaccines and especially rules about testing.

In addition to potential disciplinary consequences, there could be other, non-disciplinary consequences, including being placed on leave without pay, the obligation to wear enhanced Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and the obligation to maintain physical distancing.

Question: Will OPSEU/SEFPO members be able to grieve disciplinary actions that result from their refusal to get vaccinated, or be tested?

Answer: Yes. Members may grieve disciplinary or other consequences, just as they would for all other forms of discipline. However, filing a grievance does not guarantee success, and the grievance and arbitration process takes time to complete.

Question: Will OPSEU/SEFPO support members who are subjected to discipline?

Answer: Yes. OPSEU/SEFPO will pursue grievances filed by members, and represent them at grievance arbitrations.

However, OPSEU/SEFPO may be unable to make arguments that are insupportable, that have a negative effect on the membership as a whole, that are contrary to the Human Rights Code, or that create an antisocial outcome. If a member files a grievance that relies exclusively on such arguments, and OPSEU/SEFPO cannot pursue them in good conscience, the grievance may be less likely to succeed.

Question: What about the Charter of Rights and Freedoms – don’t I have the right to refuse the COVID-19 vaccine?

Answer: The Charter applies to government action and legislation only. Many of our employers are not subject to the provisions of the Charter, and applying the Charter to workplace rules is a complex matter.

I also want to share the following resolution was passed at the OPSEU Executive Board meeting last week.  In summary, it means that OPSEU supports the recommendations of the scientific community regarding vaccinations.  OPSEU also respects the rights of individual members and will defend OPSEU members against the draconian policy of our employer and members who work in all other OPSEU workplaces.

OPSEU/SEFPO Committed to Healthy and Safe Workplaces  

August 27, 2021 – 10:11 am

As employers across Ontario continue to phase-in a return to the traditional workplace during the rise of the Delta variant of COVID-19, our members have relayed their concerns about workplace health and safety.

OPSEU/SEFPO’s Executive Board has discussed and debated these issues thoroughly and feels the best way to protect the union’s members and the public is to follow the advice of public health experts, protect personal privacy, and promote healthy and safe workplaces while defending members’ rights.

The Executive Board is committed to following public health advice, as directed by Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health and the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table. The Board believes this is our best chance to stop the spread of COVID-19 and keep workers safe. The Executive Board reaffirmed its support for personal health choices and the protection of people’s personal medical information.

In addition, OPSEU/SEFPO will continue to defend its members, and advocate for appropriate PPE and effective policies to ensure their health and safety.

Here is the resolution:

OPSEU/SEFPO Reaffirms Its Commitment to Support Healthy and Safe Workplaces

Whereas OPSEU/SEFPO is a recognized social policy leader; and

Whereas the pandemic is now dominated by the Delta variant; and

Whereas workplaces are incrementally developing human resource policies calling for mandatory vaccines and or mandatory testing; and

Whereas unchallenged, these policies have the potential to create adverse disciplinary measures up to and including dismissal; and

Whereas these workplace policies are being unevenly applied; and

Whereas the return to a traditional workplace paradigm has the potential to exacerbate these negative outcomes; and

Whereas members are asking for OPSEU/SEFPO’s position on mandatory vaccines/testing;

Therefore be it resolved that OPSEU/SEFPO reaffirms its commitment to support healthy and safe workplaces; and

Be it further resolved that OPSEU/SEFPO’s position be consistent with the recommendations of the Ontario Chief Medical Officer and the Ontario Science Advisory table; and

Be it further resolved that OPSEU/SEFPO supports the rights to an individual’s personal health choices and protection of private and personal medical information; and

Be it further resolved that OPSEU/SEFPO stands firmly with Local health and safety committees and their individual work to promote healthy and safe workplaces commensurate with protection of privacy and science-based solutions emanating from the Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health and the Ontario Science Advisory Table; and

Be it further resolved that OPSEU/SEFPO continue to advocate for the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) and policies be in place for the protection of all workers; and

Be it further resolved that OPSEU/SEFPO will vigorously defend any and all members subjected to any workplace discipline not commensurate with the above values.

The Local at CAMH will be filing a Policy Grievance against this policy which at the core is extortion on the part of the employer.  After October 19th, when the employer will start placing our members on unpaid leaves of absence, we will begin filing individual grievances.  Chantelle and I will be reaching out to our OPSEU Staff Representative to see if these grievances can be fast-tracked, after they are filed.

I will end this newsletter by thanking you all again for all the work you have done over the last 18 months of this pandemic for your clients, for CAMH and for each other.  At this present moment, I recognize how it feels like a very poor return on your commitment.  I apologize for this and I pledge too that the Local will do all in our power to fight this policy.

In Solidarity,

Thomas

Local 500 Executive Committee

Thomas Andersson, President
1001 Queen Street West Unit 1, B-2A,
416 535-8501 x32330
Thomas.Andersson@camh.ca / OPSEU.Local500@camh.ca

Tony Ivanoff, Vice-President
100 Stokes Street, 3rd floor
416 535-8501 x34935
Tony.Ivanoff@camh.ca

Chantelle D’Mello, Lead Steward
1001 Queen Street West, Unit 1 B-2A
416 535-8501 x33217
Chantelle.Dmello@camh.ca / OPSEU.Local500@camh.ca

Yvonne Hinds, Secretary
160 Horner Avenue, Toronto South-West Detention Centre
416 535-8501 x36022 or 31916
Yvonne.Hinds@camh.ca

Robert Edgar, Treasurer
Robert.Edgar@camh.ca

About opseulocal500

Union office Unit 1, B-2A, (Basement, room 2A), Queen Street West Site 1001 Queen Street West Toronto, ON M6J 1H4 Tel: 416 535-8501 x32330 Fax: 416-583-1254 Email: OPSEU.Local500@camh.ca
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