Turkstra Lumber taking vaccine policy a step further by placing unvaccinated workers on leave

News Sep 25, 2021 by Fallon Hewitt Hamilton Spectator

At least one Hamilton-based business is implementing a policy that will put employees that choose not be vaccinated on administrative leave.

Speaking to The Spectator, Peter Turkstra, owner of Turkstra Lumber, said his company announced its mandatory workplace vaccination policy to its nearly 300-person workforce on Sept. 15.

Turkstra Lumber has nearly a dozen retail locations and two manufacturing plants spread out across southwestern Ontario. Inside their stores, they sell anything from building materials and siding to windows and fencing.

Turkstra said the policy, preceded by a bonus program and consideration of testing options, requires all employees to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 4. If an employee has chosen not to be vaccinated, they will be placed on unpaid administrative leave, he added.

As of Friday, Turkstra said approximately 14 employees have expressed that they will not get vaccinated for COVID-19, but “some are indicating they may reconsider.”

Turkstra said, as a business owner, the Occupational Health and Safety Act “demands” that he keep everyone in his company safe — that includes employees, colleagues as well as customers.

Not only does that mean ensuring they’re following safety protocol, but it also entails protecting them from contracting COVID-19 and getting seriously ill, he said.

“I have a responsibility to their safety, and they can not simply wave their hand and say ‘It’s my decision, therefore you’re not responsible,’” said Turkstra. “That’s not any different than one saying they’re not going to wear a hard hat or not use a guard on a saw … our first priority is the safety of our employees and customers.”

Turkstra said the company also contemplated implementing testing for employees choosing not to be vaccinated, but came to the conclusion it wasn’t “feasible” considering how spread out the business is.

But even with testing, Turkstra said the risk for an unvaccinated employee wouldn’t be completely gone. The risk of them infecting another colleague is “minimized,” but they could still catch COVID from a customer.

“Heaven forbid my unvaccinated employee gets sick and dies, then where is the responsibility?” said Turkstra. “Keeping them safe, that’s my number-one priority.”

While Turkstra has decided not to implement testing in their workplace vaccination policy, other workplaces across Hamilton have.

At the Art Gallery of Hamilton, director of people and operations Christi Marks said employees who have chosen not to be vaccinated, have an exemption or are still only partially vaccinated will be tested for the virus. As of Friday, more than 90 per cent of the gallery’s staff members are vaccinated.

The frequency of that rapid testing depends on the job and “how much risk is associated with the role,” said Marks, noting that a bartender would be tested more than a staffer that often works by themselves.

At Beanermunky Chocolate in Dundas, owner Lori Eisenberger said their workplace vaccination policy will see any new hires that are unvaccinated get rapid tested before each shift.

She said the policy adds a sense of “security” and “protection” for the workers, some of which are immunocompromised and act as primary caregivers for relatives in long-term care.

Turkstra Lumber taking vaccine policy a step further by placing unvaccinated workers on leave

The company says only 14 workers have pushed back on strict company policy for vaccination — but even some of those ‘are indicating they may reconsider’

News Sep 25, 2021 by Fallon Hewitt Hamilton Spectator

At least one Hamilton-based business is implementing a policy that will put employees that choose not be vaccinated on administrative leave.

Speaking to The Spectator, Peter Turkstra, owner of Turkstra Lumber, said his company announced its mandatory workplace vaccination policy to its nearly 300-person workforce on Sept. 15.

Turkstra Lumber has nearly a dozen retail locations and two manufacturing plants spread out across southwestern Ontario. Inside their stores, they sell anything from building materials and siding to windows and fencing.

Turkstra said the policy, preceded by a bonus program and consideration of testing options, requires all employees to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 4. If an employee has chosen not to be vaccinated, they will be placed on unpaid administrative leave, he added.

Related Content

As of Friday, Turkstra said approximately 14 employees have expressed that they will not get vaccinated for COVID-19, but “some are indicating they may reconsider.”

Turkstra said, as a business owner, the Occupational Health and Safety Act “demands” that he keep everyone in his company safe — that includes employees, colleagues as well as customers.

Not only does that mean ensuring they’re following safety protocol, but it also entails protecting them from contracting COVID-19 and getting seriously ill, he said.

“I have a responsibility to their safety, and they can not simply wave their hand and say ‘It’s my decision, therefore you’re not responsible,’” said Turkstra. “That’s not any different than one saying they’re not going to wear a hard hat or not use a guard on a saw … our first priority is the safety of our employees and customers.”

Turkstra said the company also contemplated implementing testing for employees choosing not to be vaccinated, but came to the conclusion it wasn’t “feasible” considering how spread out the business is.

But even with testing, Turkstra said the risk for an unvaccinated employee wouldn’t be completely gone. The risk of them infecting another colleague is “minimized,” but they could still catch COVID from a customer.

“Heaven forbid my unvaccinated employee gets sick and dies, then where is the responsibility?” said Turkstra. “Keeping them safe, that’s my number-one priority.”

While Turkstra has decided not to implement testing in their workplace vaccination policy, other workplaces across Hamilton have.

At the Art Gallery of Hamilton, director of people and operations Christi Marks said employees who have chosen not to be vaccinated, have an exemption or are still only partially vaccinated will be tested for the virus. As of Friday, more than 90 per cent of the gallery’s staff members are vaccinated.

The frequency of that rapid testing depends on the job and “how much risk is associated with the role,” said Marks, noting that a bartender would be tested more than a staffer that often works by themselves.

At Beanermunky Chocolate in Dundas, owner Lori Eisenberger said their workplace vaccination policy will see any new hires that are unvaccinated get rapid tested before each shift.

She said the policy adds a sense of “security” and “protection” for the workers, some of which are immunocompromised and act as primary caregivers for relatives in long-term care.

Turkstra Lumber taking vaccine policy a step further by placing unvaccinated workers on leave

The company says only 14 workers have pushed back on strict company policy for vaccination — but even some of those ‘are indicating they may reconsider’

News Sep 25, 2021 by Fallon Hewitt Hamilton Spectator

At least one Hamilton-based business is implementing a policy that will put employees that choose not be vaccinated on administrative leave.

Speaking to The Spectator, Peter Turkstra, owner of Turkstra Lumber, said his company announced its mandatory workplace vaccination policy to its nearly 300-person workforce on Sept. 15.

Turkstra Lumber has nearly a dozen retail locations and two manufacturing plants spread out across southwestern Ontario. Inside their stores, they sell anything from building materials and siding to windows and fencing.

Turkstra said the policy, preceded by a bonus program and consideration of testing options, requires all employees to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 4. If an employee has chosen not to be vaccinated, they will be placed on unpaid administrative leave, he added.

Related Content

As of Friday, Turkstra said approximately 14 employees have expressed that they will not get vaccinated for COVID-19, but “some are indicating they may reconsider.”

Turkstra said, as a business owner, the Occupational Health and Safety Act “demands” that he keep everyone in his company safe — that includes employees, colleagues as well as customers.

Not only does that mean ensuring they’re following safety protocol, but it also entails protecting them from contracting COVID-19 and getting seriously ill, he said.

“I have a responsibility to their safety, and they can not simply wave their hand and say ‘It’s my decision, therefore you’re not responsible,’” said Turkstra. “That’s not any different than one saying they’re not going to wear a hard hat or not use a guard on a saw … our first priority is the safety of our employees and customers.”

Turkstra said the company also contemplated implementing testing for employees choosing not to be vaccinated, but came to the conclusion it wasn’t “feasible” considering how spread out the business is.

But even with testing, Turkstra said the risk for an unvaccinated employee wouldn’t be completely gone. The risk of them infecting another colleague is “minimized,” but they could still catch COVID from a customer.

“Heaven forbid my unvaccinated employee gets sick and dies, then where is the responsibility?” said Turkstra. “Keeping them safe, that’s my number-one priority.”

While Turkstra has decided not to implement testing in their workplace vaccination policy, other workplaces across Hamilton have.

At the Art Gallery of Hamilton, director of people and operations Christi Marks said employees who have chosen not to be vaccinated, have an exemption or are still only partially vaccinated will be tested for the virus. As of Friday, more than 90 per cent of the gallery’s staff members are vaccinated.

The frequency of that rapid testing depends on the job and “how much risk is associated with the role,” said Marks, noting that a bartender would be tested more than a staffer that often works by themselves.

At Beanermunky Chocolate in Dundas, owner Lori Eisenberger said their workplace vaccination policy will see any new hires that are unvaccinated get rapid tested before each shift.

She said the policy adds a sense of “security” and “protection” for the workers, some of which are immunocompromised and act as primary caregivers for relatives in long-term care.