Q&A Covid Vaccine Policies

Executive Board Update

Q&A COVID-19 Vaccine Policies

Dear members,

Vaccines in the Workplace have been at the forefront of everyone’s mind over the last couple of months, and we have been getting lots of questions about COVID-19 vaccines. Currently, showing any proof of vaccination is not required at E-Comm.

However, over the last month, there have been several announcements from the Provincial and Federal Government regarding vaccines in certain workplaces:

  • On August 12, 2021, the Provincial Health Officer (PHO) and the Minister of Health announced a new PHO Order requiring all workers in specific health care settings (e.g. Long-term care and assisted living) to report their vaccination status to public health through their worksite.
  • On August 13, 2021, the Government of Canada announced its intent to require vaccination across the federal public service and across federally regulated air, rail, and marine transportation sectors.
  • On August 27, 2021, the PHO issued an order requiring proof of vaccination to access some events, services, and businesses. Starting September 13, you must have at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. By October 24, you must be fully vaccinated to access those events, services, and businesses.

E-Comm has not indicated to the Union that they are currently looking to implement a vaccination policy in our workplace. However, several things could cause that to change at a moment’s notice, including increased risk of transmission in our workplace or an order from the PHO.

Millions of people around the world have already been safely vaccinated. As of Friday, Sept. 3, 2021, 84.8% (3,929,089) of eligible people 12 and older in B.C. have received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine and 77.1% (3,572,841) received their second dose. Public health agencies around the world, like Health Canada and the international scientific community, have concluded that the approved COVID-19 vaccines are safe, including for those who are pregnant, planning to get pregnant or breastfeeding.

Where can I look for answers to the questions I have about vaccines?

There are several trusted resources with ample information to address your questions and concerns about the COVID-19 Vaccines that are available:

Additionally, if you have questions or concerns about COVID-19 vaccines, we encourage you to speak to your health care provider to inform and guide your health decisions. 

How can I get vaccinated?

British Columbians aged 12 and over who have not yet been immunized can register to be vaccinated in four ways:

  • Online through the Get Vaccinated portal: https://www.getvaccinated.gov.bc.ca/s/
  • By calling 1-833-838-2323. Translators are available in 140 languages.
  • In person at any Service B.C. location.
  • At walk-in clinics throughout the province.

What about a Vaccination Policy at E-Comm?

The Union has kept close tabs on this situation both at E-Comm and on the broader labour movement. While there is no case law on the issue of mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations that we are aware of, some labour arbitration decisions have discussed the legality of mandatory vaccines [1]. Arbitrators have recognized some instances where it might be reasonable for an employer to require its workforce to be immunized and justified the temporary removal of employees who refused to be vaccinated [2].

Such cases are almost exclusively seen in the context of health care or residential / home care services, particularly involving vulnerable communities, such as the elderly or immunocompromised. However, considering how contagious and deadly the COVID-19 virus has proven to be, the Province or E-Comm might, at some point in the future, decide to explore a mandatory COVID-19 Vaccination Policy in our workplace.

The Union will review any such policy instated by E-Comm to ensure that the policy is:

  • Compatible with the applicable employment agreement or any collective agreement;
  • Reasonable and proportional;
  • Clear and unequivocal;
  • Brought to the attention of the affected employees, including any disciplinary measures that may be enforced under the policy; and
  • Enforced consistently since the time of introduction.

Any such policy would have to be examined carefully and considered based on the facts, the circumstances, the policy’s contents, and implementation — balanced with protecting members’ autonomy, rights to privacy, and potentially human rights.

Even if a vaccination policy is determined to be a measure for our workplace, accommodation for employees who object to being vaccinated (for any reason — i.e. medical exemptions, religious beliefs, disability) will have to be considered on a case by case basis. As a Union, we recognize our obligation to those members who are not vaccinated. Furthermore, harassment and shaming of workers who refuse vaccination is never appropriate.

[1] Interior Health Authority (Cottonwoods Extended Care Facility) v BC Nurses’ Union, 2017 CanLII 72435
[2] Carewest v. A.U.P.E., 104 L.A.C. (4th) 240; Chinook Health Region v. U.N.A., [2002] 113 L.A.C. (4th) 289; Interior Health Authority v. BCNU, 155 L.A.C. (4th) 252; Interior Health Authority v. B.C.N.U [2006] B.C.C.A.A.A.; and Health Employers Assn. of British Columbia and HSA BC (Influenza Control Program Policy), Re, [2013] B.C.C.A.A.A. No. 138

As in all cases, the personal health information of others should not be disclosed or discussed without permission, either in or out of the workplace. Out of respect for all employees, any comments that can be used to identify an affected individual or infringe on their privacy will be removed. You can reach out to a member of the Executive privately to discuss these matters due to their sensitivity.

During these uncertain times, it is more important than ever that we be vigilant and work together. If you have additional concerns, please contact us at 604-800-6088 or executive@ecpbc.ca.

In solidarity,

Donald Grant