October 25, 2021
The October 15th announcement of a looming mandatory vaccination policy has sent a chill through the Territory. The vague announcement has thousands of Yukoners anxious and uncertain about whether they will be out of work following the November 30th vaccination deadline.
YEU President Steve Geick met today with the Government of Yukon’s Public Service Commissioner and John Streicker, Minister of the Public Service Commission, following up on a meeting earlier in the week with the Director of Labour Relations. In both meetings, the Union asked for a detailed plan and in both meetings it was clear; there is no plan. Policy writers are scrambling to draft policy language while the goalposts move regarding vaccination best practices. Nothing has been decided – not how to protect workers with legitimate vaccine exemptions, nor how the government will run the territory with up to 20% of its workforce on leave without pay.
In today’s meeting, Streicker and Moore committed to consider an approach similar to the GNWT’s updated vaccine policy. That policy allows for extended use of PPE, remote work options and regular rapid testing of unvaccinated workers. There is also a review of the November 30th deadline underway as new recommendations have emerged around the ideal length of time between first and second doses.
Minister Streicker confirmed his commitment by email October 22, afternoon:
"I have committed to getting back to you and YEU on or before Friday October 29th with public health information as advised by the Acting Chief Medical Officer of Health and her office about all proposed strategies in support of public health regarding those employees who are not vaccinated. We are giving your requests serious consideration. Based on shared information and further conversations with YEU and YTA, we will then determine what decisions we will be taking. As discussed in the meeting the Public Service Commission is treating this as our highest priority."
YEU is not budging; this employer must respect its workers. We will not agree to any mandate that is punitive in practice. The decision at the Government of Yukon is key as other employers will follow their lead. The ramifications of this policy will affect all Yukon workers.
Last week, YEU filed a Policy Grievance on behalf of all members of the bargaining unit, We're grieving the arbitrary nature of the announcement and the employer's failure to consider less invasive alternatives, as well as a failure to consider all important aspects of implementing such a term and condition of employment. Click HERE to view grievance submitted.
Yukon Employees’ Union supports the enhanced workplace safety a vaccination policy can provide, but we also support the rights of our members who are medically unable to be vaccinated. For those who choose not to accept the vaccine, we believe that the employer has an obligation to consider alternatives to leave without pay or disciplinary action, including remote work, PPE and rapid testing.
Please visit our website and review our Vaccine Mandate FAQs, linked below. You can also see our latest article published October 21, 2021. If you wish to share your thoughts or express your concerns, please use our contact form at yeu.ca/contact