Tag Archives: vaccination

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.

Public service workers shouldn’t be disciplined over vaccination requirements

This week, national political party leaders have made concerning statements about disciplining or terminating federal public service workers who choose not to be vaccinated as part of the government’s vaccine mandate proposal.

PSAC supports vaccination requirements for federal workers to ensure the safety of our members in their workplaces, and to protect our communities, but using discipline and termination to enforce them is unacceptable.

PSAC has been in in consultation with the federal government on their vaccination proposal, and our position is clear: employees with a valid medical reason for being unvaccinated, or for reasons protected by human rights legislation, must be offered a formal accommodation under the law.

In addition, if there are workers who are unable or unwilling to be vaccinated, the government must temporarily reassign those employees to other duties where possible, or allow for alternate work arrangements such as remote work.

Where required, other measures should be explored, including regular screening and rapid testing.

PSAC will continue to play an active role in consultations as the federal government develops its vaccination requirements plan. We will do our utmost to ensure the safety our members while protecting their rights in the workplace – including their right to privacy.

This article has also been posted on the PSAC website.

PSAC statement on vaccination requirements for federal public service workers

On August 13, the federal government announced it will require COVID-19 vaccinations for all federal public service workers by early fall.

The government also expects that Crown corporations and other federally regulated employers will require vaccinations for their employees by the end of October.

As Canada enters a fourth wave of the pandemic, it’s more important than ever for Canadians to do everything they can to protect each other and slow the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.

Science has shown us that vaccinations – alongside other measures like masking and physical distancing – are the most effective ways to fight COVID-19 and keep each other safe.

PSAC supports measures to increase vaccination rates, including vaccination requirements for federal public service workers to protect our members, their colleagues, and our communities.

Governments and employers have an obligation to ensure our workplaces are safe for public service workers and Canadians everywhere.

Although we support the goals of the government’s proposal, it’s critical that any eventual plan put forward by the government that would collect or verify the vaccination or medical status of our members respects their legal right to privacy. The government must also provide accommodations for workers who cannot be vaccinated for reasons protected under human rights legislation.

We expect the government to continue consulting with unions on the implementation of their vaccination requirements to safeguard our members’ right to privacy and ensure that their human rights are respected.

This article has also been posted on the PSAC website.

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.