MEMO: Mandatory Vaccines
Dear NAPE Local Officer and/or Shop Steward,
There has been considerable discussion in the media, policy, public health, and labour relations worlds of late regarding mandatory vaccines. We understand this may be causing concern amongst some members.
Shortly ago, the Federal government announced that mandatory vaccines would be required for all federal public service employees, crown corps, and other federally regulated businesses. As well, all commercial air travellers and passengers on interprovincial trains and large marine vessels with overnight accommodations (such as cruise ships) will have to be vaccinated.
This is a difficult issue and one that must be approached with balance. On the one side is the necessity to protect worker and individual rights on labour relations, human and privacy levels.
On the other, is the need to protect workers, patients, residents, clients, and overall public health.
The COVID-19 pandemic is not something we have ever faced before as workers and as a union. The situation is ever-evolving and we are staying on top of it from a local, provincial, national, and worldwide perspective in terms of best practices, case law, arbitrations, etc.
In general, any movement on mandating would require the following (not exhaustive):
- reasonable consideration of individual worker rights and personal autonomy against the safety of others;
- consideration of reasonable alternative safety options (such as masking and social distancing or working from home);
- duty to accommodate those whose health or religious beliefs do not permit vaccination; and
- consideration of protection of personal privacy and confidentiality
To date, there has been no specific legal decision about employer’s rights to mandate COVID-19 vaccination.
At this stage, there is no mandatory vaccine policy in this province for provincial employees, crown corps, or health boards. However, the Premier indicated a number of days ago that he was waiting to see what the federal government would do before making any decisions.
The case law on other mandatory vaccination policies in the past suggests that an employer may have the right to make vaccination mandatory in specific workplace settings such as in healthcare and congregate living or work situations (particularly workplaces where close contact with other workers or the public is commonplace and cannot be adequately addressed via other safety or precautionary methods).
In this province, vaccination rates are amongst the highest in the world – and they continue to climb.
Members should follow public health advice – we encourage those who are able to get vaccinated to get vaccinated. Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself, your coworkers, your family, and the public at large. The evidence is overwhelmingly clear on this front. Education, proper communication, and access to the facts from trusted sources is key in this effort.
We are reaching out to the government on this matter and will provide an update as information becomes available. At this stage, we have not been made aware of any decision by the provincial government. We will continue to monitor this situation on an employer-by-employer basis.
As always, we will ensure that our members are treated fairly and that they are safe – this is our number one priority today and every day.