Thu. May 26th, 2022

Four local unions representing municipal employees have complained about the city of Ottawa’s mandatory vaccination policy.

Under the policy announced in September, employees are required to declare their COVID-19 immunization status and be fully vaccinated by November 1st.

Those who do not have proof of vaccination “will not be allowed in the workplace and may have various consequences, which may include unpaid leave or discipline, even dismissal,” according to the city’s website.

Only staff with medical reasons are exempt.

Shortly after the policy was announced, the city received complaints from four union residents, a spokesman confirmed.

Three of the complaints came from unions representing transit and transportation workers: Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) 279, ATU 1760, and Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) 5500.

CUPE 503, which represents municipal employees, including healthcare professionals, business people and librarians, also filed a complaint.

“These issues are in the initial stages and continue through the normal appeals process outlined in the respective agreements,” wrote City Attorney David White.

Hundreds of complaints, according to the union

Clint Crabtree, chairman of ATU 279, said complaints were not a coordinated effort, and his union “filed a complaint based on freedom of choice.”

Although he did not have a specific number, Crabtree said he had heard from hundreds of employees after the policy was announced.

“I have members for various reasons who do not want to receive this vaccination,” Crabtree said. “And that’s what this union is doing … protecting the rights of all members.”

Clint Crabtree, chairman of ATU local 279, which represents many of Ottawa’s transit workers, says the union has filed a complaint on behalf of workers’ ‘freedom of choice’. (Francis Ferland / CBC)

The association itself does not have an official position for or against vaccination, Crabtree said.

While ATU 279 fought for employees to prioritize vaccines, Crabtree said the union also does not want to see “any of our members on unpaid leave just because they chose not to be vaccinated.”

Ottawa tomorrow5:42Four complaints about the city’s mandatory vaccine policy

The City of Ottawa’s vaccination policy requires that city staff be fully vaccinated by November 1st. 5:42

In his statement, city officials defended the policy, stressing that municipal staff “have been at the forefront of the pandemic” and that their health and safety “remains our number one priority.”

Protecting the health of both residents and staff “must remain the city’s primary concern,” White wrote, especially as the number of COVID-19 cases increases and the highly transferable Delta variant takes hold.

ATU 279 will present its complaint in a hearing scheduled for next week, and a decision by the city is expected two weeks later.

Representatives with ATU 1760, CUPE 5500 and CUPE 503 did not reject or respond to CBC’s request for comment.

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