Tag Archives: vaccination

Paid 698 leave available for federal employees getting vaccinated

Image of arm about the receive a vaccine

As the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination begins to gain momentum, PSAC would like to remind all federal employees that they can request paid 698 leave to attend their vaccination appointment.

With the 698 leave, employees have access to up to a half-day of paid leave to attend a medical or dental appointment. This includes an appointment for vaccination, and time to travel to and from the vaccination site.

The paid leave is possible under a Treasury Board policy covering medical and dental appointments, but PSAC has been in discussions with Treasury Board to ensure that employees who are getting a vaccine that require a booster are also entitled to paid leave for the second vaccination.

However, since 698 leave is only available to employees of the federal government, we ask that provincial and territorial governments follow the federal Treasury Board example and not penalize employees by docking their pay when they protect themselves and their community by getting the COVID-19 vaccine. All workers, regardless of their jurisdiction, should be able to get vaccinated without worrying about their paycheques.

If you have any questions about your rights on the 698 leave, reach out to your local shop steward, your Component, or the PSAC regional office for help and support.

You can also consult our FAQ about your rights as an employee around COVID-19 screening and vaccination.

This article has also been posted on the PSAC website.

PSAC: Governments must prioritize vaccinations for front-line workers

Canadian border crossing

PSAC is pressing governments to prioritize vaccinations for critical front-line workers across Canada to limit the spread of COVID-19.

PSAC represents thousands of front-line workers doing critical work at Canada’s borders, in federal penitentiaries, day shelters and group homes, community parole officers, firefighters, Coast Guard staff and employees on military bases, meat-packing plant workers, food inspectors and many more.

Their close contact with the public and other employees while performing their work puts them at increased risk of contracting COVID-19 and contributing to outbreaks in their communities. That’s why it’s crucial that all provinces and territories provide access to vaccinations for front-line essential workers as soon as possible, as per Stage 2 of the Government of Canada’s vaccine schedule.

“The federal government has an obligation to safeguard the health and safety of all its employees during the pandemic,” said Chris Aylward, PSAC national president. “Federal ministers must step in and mandate provinces and territories to accelerate vaccinations for front-line essential workers as soon as possible, as recommended in the federal government’s own vaccination schedule.”

PSAC and components, including the Customs and Immigration Union and the Union of Safety and Justice Employees, have been lobbying both the federal and provincial governments, including Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, to prioritize vaccinations for our members.

“Canada Border Services Agency personnel have continued to perform critical work despite the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Jean-Pierre Fortin, CIU national president, representing more than 11,000 CBSA officers and workers across the country. “With a third wave now well underway and the growing threat of COVID variants, it’s imperative for frontline Border Services officers to be prioritized for vaccinations equally across the country, alongside other first responders and law enforcement personnel.”

Some provinces have prioritized vaccinations for front-line workers early on, while others still refuse to consider many front-line workers essential under their vaccination plans, creating a patchwork system that puts workers and the Canadians they serve at risk. Two workers, doing the same job and facing the same risk of exposure to COVID-19, could be vaccinated months apart under the current provincial arrangement.

“By not quickly moving to vaccinate all front-line staff who work day in and day out with federal offenders, we put thousands of Canadians and employees at continued high risk of COVID-19 outbreaks,” said Stan Stapleton, national president of the Union of Safety and Justice Employees representing all federal employees working in rehabilitative, parole, maintenance, food service and related support roles in federal minimum, medium and maximum security penitentiaries, as well as Community Correctional Centres and parole offices across Canada.

PSAC will continue to pressure the federal government to work collaboratively with provincial public health authorities and ensure all front-line workers are equally prioritized as part of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

The original version of this article was first posted on the PSAC website.

Press Release — Vaccination of frontline Border Officers: Minister Blair must make good on his commitment

Photo of CIU flag

OTTAWA, April 15, 2021 — With COVID-19 continuing to spread throughout the country, the National President of the Customs and Immigration Union (CIU) is calling upon the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness to honour his previous commitment, and ensure that frontline Border Services Officers and personnel working for the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) are vaccinated alongside members of other federal law enforcement agencies.

For months, CIU, which represents some 11,000 members, has been pressuring the federal as well as provincial governments to suitably prioritize Border Services personnel as part of their vaccination efforts. Sadly, vaccination plans vary greatly from one province to another, resulting in a process that is especially difficult to navigate for federal workers. Indeed, two officers who work in a similar environment, who perform the same duties, but who are located in different jurisdictions may very well not benefit from the same access to priority vaccination — if they are prioritized at all.

“For the better part of the past year, CBSA men and women have continued to perform critical work despite the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Jean-Pierre Fortin, CIU’s National President. “The reality is that every day, CBSA officers and employees put their health at risk by coming into close contact with potential COVID-19 sources while fulfilling their duties”.

CBSA frontline personnel have been instrumental in Canada’s COVID-19 response, be it at land borders or in airports, where they work directly with travelers and members of the public. Frontline Border Services Officers and employees are active in postal centers and commercial operations, where they facilitate the flow of critical goods entering the country, including PPE and vaccines.

As per the federal government’s vaccination guidelines, Border Services personnel should have been included at Stage 2 of the provinces’ vaccination plans. Unfortunately, that has often not been the case. Earlier this year, the union launched a letter-writing campaign, encouraging members to write to their provincial elected representative to sound the alarm on the pressing need for vaccination. Jean-Pierre Fortin also wrote personally to the Premiers of most provinces, advocating for fair and considerate vaccination plans.

While some provinces, notably New Brunswick and Newfoundland & Labrador, made it clear early on that frontline CBSA personnel would be vaccinated, the situation remains uneven for most of the country. Despite headways in Ontario and Quebec thanks to union pressure, some work locations remain unvaccinated, with members left in the dark. The situation is even more dire in British Columbia, where Vancouver International Airport remains one of the only airports in Canada open to international travellers where Border Services Officers are not prioritized in some way for vaccinations. Personnel located in the Prairie Provinces have also been left in the lurch.

Recently, Minister Blair met virtually with CIU members and local union representatives in Lacolle, Quebec, and in Windsor, Ontario. At these meetings, the Minister committed to intervening personally if CBSA frontline personnel were not added to their provinces’ COVID-19 vaccination plan. Despite these assurances, and despite the CIU National President writing to the Minister following these meetings, the issue remains unresolved.

“It is high time for Minister Blair to do what’s right and reach out to the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health, and to the Honourable Anita Anand, Minister of Public Services and Procurement, to ensure that CBSA employees are protected to the same degree as other federal law enforcement personnel,” declared Jean-Pierre Fortin. “The federal government has the power to secure sufficient vaccine doses for CBSA employees, and must do so immediately.”

The Customs and Immigration Union (CIU) is a component of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), which represents Canada’s Front-Line Customs and Immigration Officers. CIU also represents Investigation, Intelligence and Trade Customs Officers, Immigration Inland Enforcement and Hearings Officers, as well as all support staff – all of whom work at the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).

Your rights at work: Vaccinations and COVID-19 screening

Image vaccination

As more Canadian workers become eligible for COVID-19 vaccines and some employers make plans for a gradual return to workplaces, it’s more important than ever to know your rights when it comes to mandatory vaccinations and COVID-19 testing.

Since every province and territory has their own public health recommendations, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, but you have basic rights under your collective agreement and human rights legislation that your employer must respect.

PSAC has pulled together some important questions about your rights as an employee around COVID-19 screening and vaccinations. See the following page for more information.

COVID-19 vaccination for frontline CBSA officers and employees: Letter to Minister Blair

Photo of CIU flag

CIU National President Jean-Pierre Fortin sent the following letter to the Hon. Bill Blair, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, on March 25, 2021.

Dear Minister Blair,

With vaccination against COVID-19 now ongoing across Canada, I wish to highlight the urgent need for the members of the Customs and Immigration Union (CIU), who work for the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), to be vaccinated along with other essential frontline workers. As federal workers are often overlooked by provincial authorities, I am asking for your help to ensure that our members are suitably prioritized as part of vaccination efforts in all provinces.

As you know, provincial governments are responsible for establishing the immunization schedule, and for administering the vaccine. Vaccination plans therefore vary greatly from one province to another, which makes the resulting situation especially difficult to navigate for federal workers. Indeed, two federal public servants who work in a similar environment, who perform the same duties, but who are located in different jurisdictions may very well not benefit from the same access to priority vaccination, if they are prioritized at all.

New Brunswick and Newfoundland & Labrador made it clear early on that frontline CBSA personnel would be vaccinated as part of their Stage 2, along with other essential workers, in line with federal vaccine rollout guidelines. A few provinces — Ontario, Nova Scotia, Alberta, and British Columbia — indicated at one time or another that frontline workers and police officers would be prioritized, without explicitly including Border Services officers in their order of priority. This understandably caused some confusion amongst our members, as many perform frontline duties. While there has since been some positive movement in Ontario, at the time of writing the situation remains unclear, as it does in British Columbia and Alberta. In Nova Scotia, unfortunately, the provincial government has confirmed to CBSA that Border Services personnel would not receive priority immunization.

Finally, other governments, in Quebec, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, appear to have decided to eschew — for the most part — any order of priority other than age-based immunization, therefore shutting the door to accelerated vaccination for any non-healthcare frontline worker, including our members.

It goes without saying that certain groups, such as the elderly, healthcare workers, or those working in very high-risk environments, do need to be at the front of the vaccination line. However, first responders and law enforcement personnel such as police officers or, in the case of our members, Border Services officers, also operate in environments where they are likely to come into contact with COVID-19 sources. With a 3rd wave now underway in many parts of the country, and with increased community transmission of COVID variants, it is therefore essential for these workers to also be protected in a timely fashion, and not placed at the bottom of the order of priority in any province.

For the better part of the past year, CBSA men and women have continued to perform critical work despite the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. The reality is that every day, CBSA officers and employees put their health at risk by coming into close contact with potential COVID-19 sources while fulfilling their duties:

  • As screening officers under the Quarantine Act, we interview potentially ill travellers, assessing them for signs of illness;
  • With commercial activities still going strong at the border, we continue to inspect goods coming into the country, processing hundreds of truck drivers originating from or transiting through COVID-19 hotspots;
  • We work in mail processing centres in proximity to other workers who may have been exposed to COVID-19;
  • We escort detainees around the world, regardless of the preventative measures or lack thereof that exist in that country;
  • We work at Canada’s Immigration Holding Centres, often in close quarters with detainees;
  • We have also been instrumental in swiftly processing orders of personal protective equipment much needed during the pandemic and, recently, in clearing the first vaccine shipments at airports and land borders.

Simply put, Border Services workers and officers have been playing a crucial role in keeping Canadians safe and the cross-border economy active. I am certain you will agree: They must be adequately protected to continue this important work.

For the past weeks, CIU members have been contacting their provincial representatives to highlight the pressing need for timely vaccination. As CIU National President, I have also personally written to provincial premiers, urging governments to include all frontline personnel in their accelerated vaccination schedule. In some cases, the response has been positive, but overall the landscape remains considerably uneven.

You recently met, virtually, with Border Services Officers in Lacolle, thanking them for their tireless work in keeping the country safe. Such recognition was certainly welcomed by our members. I also understand you indicated that, if needed, you would be in touch with provincial authorities to advocate in favour of priority immunization for our members. I am therefore writing to you today to ask for your support in this endeavour: No matter the province, frontline border personnel must not be left behind, and must be included in accelerated vaccination efforts.

I thank you in advance for giving this matter the consideration it deserves. I remain at your disposal should you have any questions, and I look forward to your reply.

Yours truly,

Jean-Pierre Fortin
National President
Customs and Immigration Union

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