Thu. May 19th, 2022

Two unions representing federal officials say they are mistaken for the government’s failure to consult before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced his mandatory vaccination mandate this week.

Trudeau outlined his government’s vaccine policy earlier this week, which includes a new rule requiring federal employees to report their vaccination status by Oct. 29, and if they are not fully immunized, they risk unpaid leave. The rule also applies to federal contractors such as cleaning staff.

Employees should not show proof of immunization, but rather sign an attestation form confirming that they have received the necessary shots. Anyone on unpaid leave is not eligible for employment insurance.

Representatives of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) and the Professional Institute of Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) – which represents a total of more than 250,000 federal public servants – say they support the vaccination mandate in principle, but have a number of concerns.

Chris Aylward, PSAC’s national president, told CBC Radios Ottawa tomorrow he is disappointed that the government apparently went back to its promise in August to work with the unions before choosing a vaccine policy for federal public workers.

“There was no meaningful consultation on this policy,” he said. “So we are left with more questions than we have answers.”

A woman gets her COVID-19 QR code scanned by the manager of a fitness center in Montreal as part of Quebec’s vaccination mandate. (Graham Hughes / Canadian Press)

Union ‘miffed’ with many unanswered questions

After Trudeau announced the vaccination mandate, a statement from the PSAC said it received “less than a single weekday to provide feedback” and the Treasury Board “failed to incorporate any of the changes into their final policy.”

The statement adds that the union expects the new policy to respect members’ confidentiality rights, bargaining rights, human rights, health and safety measures, justice and inclusion, consistency and fairness.

Aylward said he has heard mixed reaction from some of the 215,000 civil servants his union represents and they have questions he cannot answer.

“As much as we agree on a vaccination policy, we are a little bit in doubt about the communication with so many questions that remain unanswered as a result of this policy,” he said.

Aylward also said the policy falls short because even if it applies to anyone working in a federal building, unvaccinated members of the public will be allowed in federal buildings and can interact with employees.

Stéphane Aubry worries that many workers will not have enough time to be fully vaccinated by the end of October. (Marc-André Cossette / CBC)

Deadline is a short turnaround, the union says

PIPSC Vice President Stéphane Aubry, who represents more than 60,000 federal staff, told Radio-Canada that he was particularly concerned about the short turnaround time between the prime minister’s announcement and the mandate coming into force.

Aubry said there may not be enough time for people to either receive both doses or prove why they should be exempt, and they could all risk losing money.

If public servants are vaccinated at the same rate as the public, Aubry estimates that thousands could be put on unpaid leave once the new rules are in place.

He also said he hoped to see alternatives to employees who cannot or will not be vaccinated, such as regular testing or working from home.

Neither Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland’s office nor Canada’s Treasury Department has responded to interview requests.

“Vaccine mandates work,” Freeland said Wednesday, adding that some of the unvaccinated are not hard on the shots, but simply need a “push to get them to take this action.”

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