Shortly after the TTC said it filed an application with Ontario’s labour board claiming the workers’ union had encouraged members to not reveal their COVID-19 vaccination status, the union representing thousands of transit workers have now walked it back.
ATU Local 113 issued a statement late Wednesday morning telling its members to now comply with the TTC’s policy to disclose their vaccination status by the extended deadline of Thursday. However, it is unclear as to why the union changed their stance.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Toronto Transit Commission said it had filed an application to the Ontario Labour Relations Board for a declaration under section 100 of the Labour Relations Act (1995) against ATU Local 113 claiming it was “encouraging members to engage in an unlawful strike activity” by not revealing their vaccination status.
“Regrettably, ATU Local 113 executives have engaged in a campaign that is creating obstacles to our objectives and is hindering the best public health advice regarding vaccinations,” TTC CEO Rick Leary said in a statement Wednesday.
“This is unfortunate for the people they represent as some of these individuals are now in a position where they may be unable to work,” Leary said.
ATU Local 113, which represents 12,000 transit workers in Toronto and York Region, said it supports vaccinations for all members who “choose to receive them.”
The union maintains the issue is TTC’s management not consulting the union on the policy or providing adequate information. It also said the TTC did not provide reasonable solutions such as regular testing offered as options at other employers.
“The reality is that most of our members are vaccinated but are also deeply concerned that their employer is seeking to force workers to undergo a medical procedure under duress,” the union’s president Carlos Santos said in a statement.
Santos also referred to some members decision not to get vaccinated due to their “membership in a group which has legitimate social and historical reasons for distrusting the Canadian medical system. Their choices are complicated by colonialism, racism, and other broader socio-economical forces which simply cannot be resolved in the short window for disclosure provided under Leary’s policy.”
Currently, the only exemptions for not being immunized against COVID-19 are for those who provide a medical reason for not being able to get the shot.
Meanwhile, TTC’s chief executive said he believes the vast majority of employees are already vaccinated due to declining cases seen among workers.
The TTC put a policy in place in August requesting that all employees, contractors and students get vaccinated against COVID-19 and disclose their vaccination status by Sept. 20. That deadline was extended to Sept. 30 and then once again to Oct. 6 due to the union’s reversal of position, the TTC said.
“All we are asking now is for employees to confirm their vaccination status by Sept. 30. Rest assured, the protection of their privacy is top of mind,” Leary said.
A spokesperson for the TTC told Global News as of Wednesday morning 60 per cent of staff have disclosed their vaccination status.
The transit agency also said it is reviewing the status of its filing with the province’s labour board.
The TTC’s policy on requiring employees to be fully vaccinated has a deadline of Oct. 30.