Tag Archives: vaccination

COVID-19 vaccination audits: FAQ

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

In the fall of 2021, CBSA employees were asked to complete a vaccine attestation, confirming that they had been vaccinated against COVID-19. The requirement to attest formed part of the Treasury Board’s Policy on COVID-19 Vaccination for the Core Public Administration Including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, which came into effect on October 6, 2021.

The Treasury Board policy was clear that while the attestation would be sufficient to show compliance with the vaccine mandate, the attestation could be subject to a future audit. In other words, employees might be required, at some point, to prove the claim that they had been vaccinated against COVID-19.

CBSA has now begun their vaccination audit. To best answer the many questions our members might have, CIU has prepared the following Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section.

Had this audit been conducted while vaccinations were still a requirement, it could have been deemed a health and safety measure. We are disappointed that the Agency has chosen to question its employees’ attestations now when it can only be happening with an eye to discipline.

We invite our members to review the following FAQ and reach out to their local Union representatives should they have any further questions.

COVID-19 vaccination audits FAQ

The audit process is entirely random and is required by the Treasury Board vaccination policy. The policy requires all governmental organizations to develop a verification process to audit employees who have provided an attestation. Most such organizations are auditing approximately 5% of all attestations. At CBSA, this means 633 people across the Agency.

Yes. 100% of those at the Executive level (Directors and above) have already been audited and asked to show proof of vaccination. Lower levels of the management team form part of the 5% random audit.

No. The audit is only for employees who attested to their vaccination status prior to June 20, 2022.

You will be informed by your local manager if your name has been randomly selected for audit.

If you are selected for audit, you will need to show proof of vaccination. This means the QR code or certificate that you were issued when you were vaccinated. If you no longer have a copy, you can access this information online in most provinces and territories using your health card number.

In most cases, complying with the audit will not incur any expenses. You should not need to see a health care professional and should be able to access your records and print a copy of your QR code online. If, however, you incur additional expenses be sure to keep a receipt and submit a claim. Be prepared to demonstrate why the information was not available to you without incurring this cost.

The employer will give you two weeks to come up with the required proof of vaccination. If you require more time, speak to your manager and explain your situation. Be sure to keep a written record of any extension that you may be granted.

Unless you can show that it is impossible for you to provide the proof that the employer is seeking, a refusal may be viewed as an admission that you are not vaccinated. If you attested that you are vaccinated but did not receive the required vaccines or can’t prove that you complied with the vaccine mandate, the expected consequence is discipline up to and including termination.

If you believe that the employer is acting in bad faith or that you have been subject to harassment or discrimination, you must comply first and grieve later. Provide proof of your vaccination status and then speak to a union representative who will assist you with the grievance process. The audit process itself, however, cannot be the subject of an individual grievance.

No. The employer is not seeking any medical information that you have not already provided. The audit process simply seeks confirmation of information that you have already shared – the fact that you have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Even though there is no longer a requirement for federal public sector workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19, the employer is still allowed to verify that your attestation was truthful. The attestation form that you signed clearly stated that it was “subject to verification and audit”, which is what CBSA is attempting to do through this random sampling.

100% of CBSA executives (directors and above) are being audited. For everyone else, CBSA is verifying approximately 5% of employees, which is the same percentage as most other federal employers. The random sample is selected nationally — not within regions. However, managers can ask for proof of vaccination outside of this random sampling. If you suspect that this is why you are being audited, please contact your local Union representative.

Government lifts vaccination policy for federal workers

Today, the federal government announced it will lift the vaccination policy for all workers in federally regulated workplaces as of June 20, and allow workers who’ve been put on leave without pay because of their vaccination status to return to work without restrictions.

Treasury Board has also asked Crown corporations and agencies to suspend their vaccination requirements, and contractors accessing federal workplaces will no longer have vaccination requirements.

“There’s no doubt we continue to support vaccinations as an important tool to protect workers and our communities from COVID-19,” said PSAC National President Chris Aylward. “But as public health guidelines have been lifted across the country, we’ve been urging the government to review and update their vaccination policy for federal workers.”

Unfortunately, the federal government did not consult with PSAC before making its decision to lift its vaccination policy. Unions should always be consulted on policies that have a major impact on the terms and conditions of employment of our members to protect their health and safety and their rights in the workplace.

Policy grievances for workers on leave without pay 

In March, PSAC filed policy grievances on behalf of our members who continued to be on leave without pay (LWOP) because of their vaccination status. We argued that continuing this measure was unnecessarily punitive.

Earlier this year, PSAC also launched policy grievances arguing the government’s policy placing full-time remote workers on leave without pay constituted an abuse of management authority because they posed no threat to the health and safety of their workplaces.

“Now that the government has lifted its vaccination policy, we expect members who were unfairly impacted to be compensated,” said Aylward.

This article was first posted on the PSAC website.

PSAC files policy grievances against federal vaccination policy

PSAC continues to support vaccination as a critical public health measure to protect our workplaces and our communities. Yet as public health restrictions begin to lift across the country, it’s important to take a critical look at the federal government’s vaccination policy and how it is applied to PSAC members.

As the pandemic has evolved and the science has developed, we believe continuing to put unvaccinated employees on leave without pay is a harsh administrative measure that can be considered disciplinary and without just cause.

PSAC has filed policy grievances on behalf of all members in the federal public service – including Treasury Board, Canada Revenue Agency, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Parks Canada – who have been put on leave without pay because of their vaccination status.

As part of the remedy, we have requested compensation for members should they continue to be placed on leave without pay because of the government’s policy. PSAC’s grievances come as the government begins to review its vaccination policy six months after its implementation.

Throughout the pandemic, we have continued to support members who have had their human rights or workplace rights violated because of their vaccination status.

PSAC continues to consult with the federal government on its vaccination policy to ensure it reflects the latest public health guidelines while protecting the health and safety of our members and their rights in the workplace.

Policy grievance for remote workers remains active

Though all workers are included in this latest policy grievance, PSAC had previously submitted a different policy grievance covering only remote Treasury Board employees in December 2021, with a subsequent submission for remote CRA employees earlier this month.

PSAC argued at the time that the federal government’s mandatory vaccination policies to place remote workers on leave without pay constituted an abuse of management authority because remote workers, who had little to no prospect of returning to physical workplaces in the long term, posed no reasonable threat to the health and safety of their workplaces.

This article was first posted on the PSAC website.

Ongoing protests against bilateral vaccine mandate: Letter to CTA President Laskowski

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CIU National President Mark Weber sent the following letter to Stephen Laskowski, President of the Canadian Trucking Alliance, on February 3, 2022.

Dear President Laskowski,

It is with great interest that I have been reading the recent statements issued by the Canadian Trucking Alliance in response to the ongoing protests against mandatory vaccination for truck drivers and other essential workers crossing the Canada-U.S. border.

Last August 6, when members of the Customs and Immigration Union undertook their work-to-rule strike action as part of contract negotiations, the overwhelming majority of truck drivers demonstrated patience and consideration towards Border Officers, speaking to the professionalism of your membership. In the last few weeks, the feedback from our members on the frontline has also been unequivocal: Since the implementation of the mandatory vaccination policy for cross-border travel in late January 2022, interactions between Border Officers and truck drivers entering Canada have continued to be positive.

As the CTA noted in its communications, most truck drivers are vaccinated and are complying with COVID-19 related regulations. With CBSA personnel and truck drivers interacting on a daily basis across Canada, I am greatly appreciative of the fact that our respective memberships have been doing their part to ensure the health and safety of everyone involved in maintaining the flow of commercial goods entering the country.

While the right to protest is an undeniable strength of our democracy, it is certainly unfortunate to see that some individuals have elected to voice their irritation with current regulations in a way that casts a shadow on the rest of the truck driving profession. I am certain that Canadians everywhere know that these actions are not representative of your members in general. Acts of intolerance cannot be condoned or ignored, and I am glad to see the CTA taking a strong position against such behaviour.

In closing, I wish to thank your members for working the front line throughout the pandemic, and offer my full support to you and your organization in these challenging times. In line with what you yourself have stated, only by working together toward a common goal can we hope to mitigate the effect of the ongoing pandemic. In that spirit,

Best regards,

Mark Weber
National President
Customs and Immigration Union

Click here for the PDF version.

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.