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Hamilton’s transit union calls city’s mandatory COVID-19 vaccine policy “too far-reaching”

Hamilton's city bus service will likely have to modify schedules and potentially some routes due to an increase in staff absenteeism. Lisa Polewski / 900 CHML

Hamilton’s transit union says its president will be filing a grievance against the city of Hamilton, alleging the municipality failed to get input from union members on a mandatory COVID-19 vaccine policy.

In a news release issued on Friday, ATU Local 107 said dialogue and consultation with members before the public announcement would have been “responsible and respectful”.

“To [cite] health and safety concerns while failing to implement functional and sanitary washroom facilities as negotiated or enforcing mandatory masks on workers while not enforcing them on passengers only further fosters our skepticism,” the release reads.

Read more: Mandatory vaccine policy approved for City of Hamilton employees

The union said it’s concerned that the policy, which requires all city of Hamilton employees to disclose their vaccination status by Sept. 15, is “too far-reaching.”

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“Proactive policies such as on-site vaccination clinics, promotional and educational efforts to address misinformation and alleviate false fears would have gone a long way to foster trust and encourage higher voluntary vaccinations.”

The union, which represents about 1,000 HSR workers, said they will be recommending that all of their members get the shot, but will also carefully review the policy before determining their next steps.

Union President Eric Tuck previously told Global News that no employer, government body, or agency should have the right to make vaccinations a condition of employment unless it was a prerequisite “clearly spelled out” prior to employees being hired.

“To arbitrarily mandate vaccinations … violates personal rights and the freedom of choice with respect to the sanctity of one’s own body,” Tuck told Global News earlier this week.

Read more: Hamilton’s transit union urges council not to mandate employee vaccination

During Thursday’s special council meeting, Stoney Creek Councillor Brad Clark said he believes the city did its due diligence and that the policy will withstand any appeals.

“It really does balance individual rights, human rights, constitutional rights, with the need to protect our employees and any resident that is dealing directly with our employees,” said Clark.

City employees who have not been vaccinated, or refuse to disclose their status by Sept. 15, must participate in an education session, get their first dose by Sept. 30, and be fully vaccinated by Nov. 1, unless they have a medical or human rights exemption.

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– with files from Ken Mann, Global News

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