Dear Fellow UWOSA Members,
Thank you to all our members who have reached out to the UWOSA office with their questions and comments regarding Western’s updated COVID-19 Vaccination Policy.
UWOSA continues to support vaccination as a public health measure to protect our workplaces and our communities. However, as public health restrictions have lifted across the country, including Ontario, it is important to take a closer review of Western’s vaccination policy and how it is applied specifically to UWOSA members.
Throughout the pandemic we have continued to support members who have had their human rights or workplace rights violated because of their current status.
What’s Happening Now?
On August 22, 2022, Western introduced an amended COVID-19 Vaccination Policy, MAPP Policy 3.1.1.
This amended policy was implemented in August 2022, despite the fact that:
- The Provincial Government has eliminated the mandatory vaccine passport program within Ontario.
- The Provincial Government has eliminated masking requirements in most all settings in Ontario.
- There is scientific evidence that the vaccines are less effective against the current COVID-19 variant than was previously the case.
- The Ontario Science Table will be dissolved as of September 6, 2022.
- Other Universities/Colleges have dropped their vaccination requirements, with the notable exception of some requiring vaccination (and boosters) for students living in residence.
Given the current state of the pandemic there are arguably less intrusive means to keep employees safe at work and to enable Western to meet its statutory obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
What Can We Do?
To date, for unions who have decided to challenge their employer’s vaccination policies, the matter has gone to arbitration and an arbitrator has made the final decision on the dispute. While different arbitrators have reached different conclusions, in different contexts, essentially all arbitrators have agreed that the test set out in KVP is applicable and should be applied in order to determine whether a particular vaccine policy is reasonable in the circumstances.
The KVP test requires that a policy or rule satisfy the following conditions:
- It must not be inconsistent with the collective agreement.
- It must not be unreasonable.
- It must be clear and unequivocal.
- It must be brought to the attention of the employees affected before the company can act on it.
- The employee concerned must have been notified that a breach of such a rule could result in his discharge if the rule is used as a foundation for discharge.
- Such rule should have been consistently enforced by the company from the time that it was introduced.
UWOSA has repeatedly raised concerns to Western that the policy does not strike a reasonable balance between an employee’s interest in privacy, bodily integrity and Western’s interest in maintaining the health and safety of its workplace. In short, this new version of Western’s Vaccination Policy does not meet several aspects of the KVP test. Specifically:
- Many ‘visitors’ attending campus are inexplicably excluded from the vaccine requirement; and
- Reasonable alternatives such as masking are not being appropriately utilized as a less intrusive measure.
What Has UWOSA Done?
On August 23rd, 2022 we reached out to you, our members, to solicit your feedback. Thank you to all members who responded. UWOSA members are an important part of Western’s community and it is imperative that our voices are equally heard.
The UWOSA Executive reviewed all perspectives and comments received. We have also sought multiple opinions from our legal team regarding the reasonableness and enforceability of the amended vaccination policy, the vagueness of the testing process for our members who have approved exemptions under the Ontario Human Rights Code (OHRC) and daily rapid testing requirements, and we can now share with you UWOSA’s response.
There is a clear process under Ontario’s Labour Relations Act, 1995 (OLRA) that allows UWOSA to challenge the vaccination policy should we find that Western’s policy as written current is unreasonable.
UWOSA has filed a policy grievance as is our right under Article 8 of our Collective Agreement to support our membership against Western’s amended COVID-19 Vaccination Policy, MAPP Policy 3.1.1.
To be very clear:
- UWOSA fully supports a safe and healthy workplace
- UWOSA, in accordance with public health guidelines, encourages vaccinations and masking
- UWOSA fully supports reasonable policies that are equitably applied to our entire campus community, including any ‘visitor’
- UWOSA fully supports a community where everyone feels supported and included
UWOSA will fight to ensure that regardless of any member’s vaccination status, our collective is heard and our collective is supported. UWOSA acknowledges that the current policy is unreasonable for our members and is a breach of our Collective Agreement as well as The Ontario Human Rights Code. While there is no guaranteed outcome of the policy grievance filed, we are optimistic a resolution will be reasonable and equitable.
What To Do In The Interim:
If you are being unreasonably denied:
- a medical or religious exemption
- are being required to perform daily or weekly testing outside of work time, or
- have safety concerns that are not being reasonably addressed
please reach out to us at email@example.com so we can provide options and supports. Due to the increase of emails and phone calls received, there may be a delay in our response. This includes any further questions, comments, or feedback you wish to share with the Executive committee.
We gently remind you of the supports and resources currently available: family physician, Employee Well-Being, Living Well at Western, and the Employee and Family Assistance Program (Life Works (formerly Morneau Sheppel) 24/7: 1-855-597-2105 or login.lifeworks.com or the Lifeworks App).
We will continue to provide regular updates to our membership.
UWOSA Executive Committee
(Nikki Grozelle, Jen Heidenheim, Meg Perinpanayagam, Lori Johnson, Natalie Samuel, Cleusa De Oliveira and Emericks Rivas)