Union says regular testing better than employee suspensions or terminations
The Ontario Superior Court has denied a request from the Toronto Transit Commission's largest union to block the transit agency from enforcing its mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy.
The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 113 represents close to 12,000 TTC workers.
“Safety is a core value at the TTC. Ensuring the safety of our employees and our customers is the reason that we introduced the mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy in September. We know that getting vaccinated is one of the most important things that people can do to put the pandemic behind us. As an essential service, we need the TTC to be a safe place for everyone,” says Rick Leary, TTC CEO.
The next phase of the TTC vaccination policy came into effect on Nov. 21. TTC employees who remain unvaccinated or refuse to disclose their vaccination status are to be placed on leave.
As of Nov. 22, roughly 90 per cent of the agency’s 15,061 active employees have shared their COVID-19 vaccination status. The TTC has also held 61 vaccination clinics for employees and customers. Almost 9,500 shots have been administered at these clinics, according to the commission.
Recent decisions from labour arbitrators on the enforceability of vaccination policies have produced mixed results, says Brittany Taylor of Rudner Law in Toronto.
The union said it was disappointed with the court’s decision.
“We believe the TTC’s policy of suspending and terminating unvaccinated workers is unfair and will be struck down at arbitration,” says Carlos Santos, president of the ATU.
The fight is not about the vaccinations but about “defending rights and saving jobs while still protecting public health,” he says.
“Instead of firing workers, the TTC can keep our workplace safe by offering regular testing for the small percentage of workers who do not wish to receive the vaccine. This measure has already been successfully executed with Mississauga Transit and Brampton Transit and can be safely adopted in Toronto as well.
Is refusing a vaccine considered a frustration of contract? Canadian HR Reporter spoke with Paul Boshyk, partner employment labour relations at McMillan in Toronto, about some of the legal landmines employers will have to be aware of when implementing such a policy.