Over the last few days, a debate over mandatory vaccinations erupted following the federal government’s announcement regarding mandatory vaccinations. The government’s lack of direction and clarity has caused uncertainty and confusion, particularly, when it comes to workplace implications. This is shameful, and the IAMAW sharply condemns the politicization of this issue.
In days following the announcement, many employers followed suit, raising questions among IAMAW members about their rights should their employer require them to be vaccinated and whether their employer can require them to disclose their vaccination status. We also know some of our members are worried about the potential of mandatory vaccination policies to hand employers overreaching powers, with workers bearing the consequences. We not only recognize this concern, but are keeping this front and center of any and all discussions we may have, whether it be with government or employers.
The IAMAW acknowledges the importance of vaccinations on the road to recovery as a public health measure. However, in the context of work, any decision to impose a mandatory policies must be based on scientific evidence and be made by public health officials, not employers or unions. Rules must be clear, consistent and based on the determination of public health experts, and scientific evidence. Evidence based decision making is absolutely essential in continuously changing circumstances like the pandemic.
The IAMAW will be calling on employers who have expressed an intent to mandate vaccines to consult the union. We will ensure employers meet their obligation to plan for accommodations, and go so far as to meet those obligations up to the point of undue hardship. Accommodations for disability and other needs and human rights and privacy protections must be part of any immunization policy.
We categorically reject terminations and discipline as leverage to increase vaccination rates. Punitive policies are not conducive for a positive workplace and a healthy relationship with employees. There are other ways to encourage participation in a vaccination program and there can be alternative measures within the program such as, regular testing, PPE, remote work, and proven health and safety protocols. Vaccination should not be the sole method of curbing COVID-19.
The law is clear on how these policies are to be developed and implemented. We will ask employers to develop policies that are, consistent with collective agreements, clear in their intent and rationally connected to objectives the employer wants to reach, consistently enforced, and last but not least, consistent with accommodation requirements.
Privacy protections for workers and restrictions on employers’ access to confidential health information are a must. The IAMAW is concerned about the confidentiality of workers’ vaccination information and the restrictions on employers’ ability to access and share this information. Given the sensitivity of personal and medical health information, we oppose employers being able to ask for this information prior to employment or to make employment decisions based on vaccination status.
We are following developments on a daily basis, and will provide guidance and support for our union representative and members.