Tag Archives: COVID-19

PSAC celebrates 699 leave victory

In a major victory for federal public service workers hardest hit by the pandemic, an arbitration board ruled that Treasury Board cannot force employees to exhaust all their other leave before accessing 699 leave for COVID-19-related reasons.

This decision means that PSAC members who filed individual grievances related to 699 leave — where members were forced to use other available leave like sick leave, vacation leave or family leave before accessing 699 leave — can now request the leave be reimbursed to their leave banks.

Treasury Board’s heavy hand during the pandemic

The 699 leave provision is for “other leave with pay” and members can request it through their manager when they are unable to report to work for reasons beyond their control. This is different from sick leave and vacation time.

PSAC members relied on 699 leave to grapple with radical work-life changes during the pandemic. Parents were often left with no choice but to apply for 699 leave when schools and daycares were closed or went remote, but the government heavily restricted its use.

The restrictions disproportionately impact marginalized groups who have been the hardest hit by the pandemic, including women, Black, Indigenous and racialized employees, workers with disabilities, high-risk workers and workers with family obligations.

PSAC filed several policy grievances with Treasury Board, CFIA and other agencies for restricting the use of 699 leave. Two of these grievances were then brought before the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board.

The Board found the 699 leave policy breached PSAC’s collective agreement by requiring employees to exhaust other leave before 699 leave could be granted. The Board ruled this posed an undue burden on employees and violated members’ collective agreements.

On parental leave specifically, the Board ruled that denial of 699 leave to parents who “chose” not to send their children to school or daycare is not discriminatory or a violation of the collective agreement. Although parents may have a right to choose to keep their children at home” this was a choice and not a right that is protected by human rights legislation, the Board ruled. PSAC is reviewing this aspect of the decision for potential grounds for judicial review given the evidence that parents had little to no choice regarding childcare during the pandemic as well as the state of human rights jurisprudence on the issue of sex and family status discrimination.

Requesting 699 leave

If you need leave related to COVID-19, you should continue to request 699 leave. If your request is denied or you are forced to take other types of leave, reach out immediately to your PSAC regional office or your component labour relations officer to discuss whether you should file an individual or group grievance, including a grievance citing discrimination on the grounds of sex, family status or disability.

Stay up to date about 699 leave and other important issues by updating your contact information and signing up for our latest updates.

This article was first posted on the PSAC website.

Mandatory vaccination policy for public service employees — Further guidance and FAQ

Image of border crossing with the words "COVID-19"

Over the last few days, we have heard from several members regarding the federal government’s mandatory vaccination policy for federal public service workers. Due to its scope, this policy has understandably generated a fair number of questions and concerns.

As we continue to work closely with PSAC to support our membership, CIU has prepared the following documentation to address lingering questions. From a labour relations perspective, it should be noted that certain aspects of the policy have possible ramifications that bring both the union and the employer into uncharted waters. In addition to resources already available from both CIU and PSAC, we hope that the following guidance, based on current legal expertise, will help you navigate the next steps.

The health and safety of our members has always been of the utmost importance to CIU, and never has this been more true than during this pandemic. We understand that this new policy from the employer can be a source of stress for some and, in addition to the guidance provided here, we encourage you to speak with your medical professional to help you make an informed decision regarding vaccination.

Should your question not be addressed below, or should you have further concerns, please contact your Branch President or keep an eye on the national CIU website for updates.


FAQ: Mandatory vaccination policy
for federal employees

As previously stated, CIU supports vaccination efforts as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. With other preventative measures, having as many Canadians as possible fully vaccinated remains the best way to combat the ongoing pandemic.

Further reading about the importance of COVID-19 vaccines:

We do take issue with the unilateral imposition of this policy without meaningful consultation with the unions to pre-emptively address concerns. It is especially concerning to us that the employer would immediately resort to placing non-compliant employees on administrative leave without pay (LWOP) without looking into other methods of accommodation, where possible.

The employer has made it clear that the policy applies to all employees in the core public service, including those working remotely. However, as the policy concerns health and safety in the workplace, it is unclear — at this time — why the obligation to be fully vaccinated should extend to employees who are not in the workplace, such as those working from home. Nevertheless, the employer’s expectation is clear, and employees who do not meet the policy’s requirements face being placed on administrative leave without pay.

Yes. Members have the right to grieve and, should they be placed on administrative leave without pay (LWOP) under the policy, we will support them to the best of our abilities. As with any grievance, each case that is brought forward will be thoroughly assessed based on individual circumstances and merit.

Members who wish to grieve in this context should only do so after being placed on LWOP as per the policy. Members who are in this situation should contact their Branch President. It bears mentioning that the redress process is generally lengthy, and that a swift resolution to a grievance is unlikely.

Members can always choose to file a human rights complaint and should contact the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) to do so. While CIU cannot file Human Rights complaints on behalf of members, we can provide information on how to do so, and we invite members to contact CIU’s Human Rights representative, Murray Star, for more information on the matter.

Based on existing information, however, it appears unlikely in our opinion that the CHRC will rule favourably on the issue — except for cases involving religious or medical exemptions. The Ontario Human Rights Commission has already stated that the decision not to be vaccinated constitutes an individual decision/belief and, as such, does not fall under the prohibited grounds of discrimination as defined in the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Where members have an exemption on medical or religious grounds and the employer fails to provide a suitable accommodation, we encourage them to file both a grievance and a human rights complaint. For more information on how to request an accommodation, please see the following post.

As the government’s mandatory vaccination policy applies across the federal public service, policy grievances lie within the purview of PSAC who, as the bargaining agent, will decide whether or not to contest the policy as a whole. We will be sure to inform the membership should this happen.

All employees have a right to file a complaint with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner if they believe that their personal information is not being handled properly. Members who wish to file a privacy complaint can do so through the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.

Note that while CIU does not normally represent members on individual privacy complaints, we can provide information on how to file one, should the information provided by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner be insufficient. It is also possible for the bargaining agent — PSAC — to file a complaint with the Privacy Commissioner, and we will be sure to keep members informed of any development in that regard.

Accommodation requests regarding the new federal mandatory vaccination policy

Image of border crossing with the words "COVID-19"

As per the federal government’s new mandatory vaccination policy​ for federal public service workers, all CBSA employees must attest to being fully vaccinated by October 29, 2021, or face being placed on administrative leave without pay two week after the attestation deadline.

The policy does allow for employees who are unable to be vaccinated — based on a certified medical contraindication, a religious exemption, or another prohibited ground of discrimination as per the Canadian Human Rights Act — to request an accommodation. CIU recommends that members who intend to request such an accommodation do so before the October 29 deadline, which is fast approaching.

​Members who wish to submit an accommodation request should:

  • Inform their manager of their intention to ask for an accommodation as early as possible, before October 29.
  • Obtain the necessary documentation justifying the request from relevant authorities (for example, a qualified medical professional or religious authority figure).
  • Contact the CIU Human Rights Representative, Murray Star, at murray.star@ciu-sdi.ca for additional guidance.

As this policy applies to the entire public service and not just CBSA, it is worth noting that the federal government has made it clear that they would be very stringent in granting accommodations regarding mandatory vaccination. Should accommodation requests be denied, we will continue to defend our members to the best of our abilities. It is important to stress that such cases often take considerable time to resolve.

Should you have further questions regarding the accommodation process, please contact the CIU Human Rights Representative, Murray Star, at murray.star@ciu-sdi.ca.

Federal government rushes through mandatory vaccination policy, eschews meaningful consultation with unions

Image of border crossing with the words "COVID-19"

Today, the federal government announced its new mandatory vaccination policy for all federal public service workers. In doing so, they eschewed the meaningful consultation with the federal public sector unions they had promised, imposing this rushed policy in lieu of what should have been a nuanced framework.

Let us be clear: CIU fully supports ongoing vaccination efforts in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we strongly encourage our members to get vaccinated. Along with other preventative measures, vaccination campaigns across the country have played a crucial role in managing the most severe impacts of the pandemic and saved the lives of many Canadians.

That is why, earlier this year, CIU had urged the Government of Canada to adequately prioritize the vaccination of our members. Even though we processed unvaccinated travellers from around the world, we were told that no priority would be given to our members, and that we were safe to do our jobs unvaccinated. CIU then pressured provincial governments to move us up their vaccination priority list, which had varying degrees of success across different provinces and public health units.

Along with other essential workers, CIU occupies a unique position within the federal public service, with a large part of our membership having continued to work on the frontline since day one of the pandemic. We’ve ensured that our borders remained operational throughout, all the while being told that our workplaces were safe and that the preventative measures in place — which have never included vaccination — were adequate. Over time, our employer’s attitude toward risk has become more and more permissive. We have seen a consistent erosion of our preventative measures, and a downplaying of the risk of COVID transmission in the workplace:

  • The employer resumed full-contact, hands-on use of force training at the height of the third wave.
  • Full-contact CDT as part of student training continued at the peak of the third wave in some of Canada’s most infected areas.
  • COVID-19 related work refusals have consistently been rejected, with ESDC labour ruling that there was no danger.
  • Our members are consistently told that there is no need for additional PPE when dealing with COVID positive cases.
  • Despite the pandemic still going strong in parts of the country, the employer has clawed back preventative measures such as platooning, remote work, virtual training, etc.
  • Just two weeks ago, the employer refused to stop close contact training in Alberta because ‘there had not been any transmission in training’, deeming their preventative measures effective enough in the midst of a public health crisis.
  • The request to limit the number of travellers in our baggage halls has been denied because Transport Canada ‘does not require it’.
  • Our employer attempted to eliminate physically distancing in vehicles, claiming masking is effective enough.
  • Vulnerable employees and employees living with vulnerable people who have been working from home have been pressured to return to work based on the employer’s list of preventative measures (which, again, never included vaccination).
  • The employer has repeatedly cited low work-related transmission or outbreaks of COVID-19 to justify less stringent preventative measures.

It is difficult to reconcile the employer’s dismissal of sensible preventative measures with the now seemingly urgent need for all federal public service workers to be fully vaccinated or face the threat of being placed on leave without pay. Some of these very same employees were required to travel internationally without vaccine priority or interact with unvaccinated travellers and clients. To justify this policy as a means of protecting the health and safety of employees is especially hypocritical.

It bears repeating again — high vaccination rates are an important tool in the arsenal we have at our disposal against COVID-19, and we strongly urge our members who can get vaccinated to do so if they have not already. That being said, for the Government of Canada to rush through a mandatory vaccination policy on the basis of occupational health and safety, without proper consultation with the unions, and after indicating to our members for the past 20 months that COVID was not a concern in our workplaces, is extremely disingenuous.

We understand that some may find aspects of the current situation to be contentious, and we urge all of our members to maintain a respectful and professional attitude amongst themselves, as well as towards their union representatives.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada has already highlighted a full list of concerns and issues with this new policy. As made clear by PSAC in their statement, we will continue to represent unvaccinated members who have punitive action taken against them as a result of their vaccination status. Should you need assistance in this matter, please contact your Branch President.

Federal government releases vaccination policy without proper consultation — PSAC Statement & FAQ

The federal government released its vaccination policy for federal public service workers October 6, mandating vaccinations for all employees in federally regulated workplaces, including more than 160,000 PSAC members.

Treasury Board has encouraged Crown corporations, agencies, and the Canadian Forces to implement similar policies, but this policy will not immediately apply to them.

Read the full vaccination policy

PSAC fully supports a federal vaccination policy to protect the health and safety of our members and the Canadians they serve. We know that increasing vaccination rates is the best and most reliable way to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our workplaces and our communities and encourage our members to be vaccinated.

See also the FAQ Your rights at work: Vaccinations and COVID-19.

However, if the goal is to keep the workplace healthy and safe, this policy still falls short.

The government rushed their vaccination policy without meaningful consultation with the unions representing federal public service workers. Treasury Board gave unions less than a single business day to provide feedback on their policy, and then failed to incorporate any of the changes into their final policy. Our union supports the government’s vaccination framework, but how it is applied matters, and we expect the employer’s implementation of the policy will respect:

Members’ privacy rights: Any personal information collected must be shared on a need-to-know basis only and collected and stored for a limited period and in keeping with the Privacy Act.

Bargaining rights: Bargaining agents should be included in meaningful consultation as these frameworks and policies evolve, including adequate time to provide feedback and input.

Human rights: Members’ human rights must be protected under the Canadian Human Rights Act, including the duty to accommodate.

Health and safety: Workplace health and safety committees must be consulted about the implementation of the policy.

Equity and inclusion: The policy must consider the adverse impacts of the policy on historically disadvantaged groups of employees, including racialized, Black and Indigenous employees.

Consistency: The government’s vaccination policy should also apply to federal contractors and the general public who interact with federal public service workers to ensure the health and safety of our members. The vaccination policy also needs to be applied consistently across federal departments and agencies.

Fairness: Employees who are required to be vaccinated or who experience side effects should not have to use their own sick leave banks, and this should not be left up to the discretion of individual managers.

While the vast majority of PSAC’s membership is fully vaccinated, PSAC will continue to represent unvaccinated members who have punitive action taken against them as a result of their vaccination status.

We’ll continue to work to ensure the implementation of the policy protects the health and safety and human rights of our members while ensuring their rights to privacy are respected.

Keep your member info up to date to receive all the latest updates about the government’s vaccination policy, bargaining issues and more.

This article has also been posted on the PSAC website.