Most HSR bus drivers won’t tell the city if they’ve had the COVID jab

News Sep 28, 2021 by Matthew Van Dongen Hamilton Spectator

Most HSR bus drivers and maintenance workers have not disclosed their COVID vaccination status under a mandatory city jab policy the transit union calls “unlawful.”

If the dispute goes unresolved, some operators could be banned from driving HSR buses — even as the city tries to recover from a dramatic pandemic crash in transit ridership.

Council recently approved a policy that requires all 7,000-plus city workers to get a double dose of the COVID vaccine by Nov. 1 or agree to regular testing for the virus. Any employee who refuses both options would be banned from city property — including buses.

As a first step, workers were supposed to disclose vaccination status to the city by Sept. 15. About two-thirds of city workers did so on time, said city human resources head Lora Fontana.

By comparison, only 117 out of 687 HSR drivers and maintenance workers — about 17 per cent — have disclosed their vaccination status, said Fontana, who added transit union leaders are “quite vocal about their displeasure with the policy.”

In Toronto, the Amalgamated Transit Union has advised municipal transit workers against disclosing their vaccination status, calling that city’s mandatory jab policy an “unjust intrusion.”

Hamilton’s union has not instructed members to withhold such information, said president Eric Tuck — but it will defend their “freedom to choose.”

In an interview, Tuck stressed the union encourages vaccination and added he believes a majority of drivers have already got the jab. But he called the mandatory shot policy “disrespectful” and unnecessarily “adversarial,” arguing the city risks an exodus of drivers it can’t afford to lose during the hoped-for pandemic recovery.

The city has said workers who refuse to abide by the policy face “possible discipline,” but not termination.

Tuck was more pointed in a letter to city council that says ATU Local 107 has received a legal opinion that labels Hamilton’s vaccine policy “unlawful,” a violation of privacy rights and the collective agreement.

“It is the union’s position that you cannot require our members … to disclose their medical information (including vaccination status) nor undergo mandatory vaccination,” reads the letter, which will be considered by council at Wednesday’s meeting. “We will vigorously defend our members’ rights in this regard.”

The union has already filed a grievance against the city over what it says was a lack of consultation on the vaccination policy ahead of time.

Fontana said the city has offered to meet with the transit union to discuss its concerns and noted there is still time to reach an understanding.

Any city workers who have not disclosed their vaccination status were supposed to attend an education session last week and must show proof of a first COVID shot by Sept. 30. Proof of a second jab is required by Nov. 1.

Anyone who skips the shot or has a valid medical or human rights exemption must submit to regular COVID tests in order to go to work on city property.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission recently stated mandating and requiring proof of vaccination is “generally permissible” as long as those individuals who can't get the shot for human rights reasons are “reasonably accommodated.”

Tuck said union members were participating in a town hall Monday to learn more about the city’s policy and the union’s legal opinion.

Matthew Van Dongen is a Hamilton-based reporter covering transportation for The Spectator. Reach him via email: mvandongen@thespec.com

Most HSR bus drivers won’t tell the city if they’ve had the COVID jab

The union says a majority of drivers are likely vaccinated, but it is still opposing the city’s ‘unlawful’ mandatory jab policy.

News Sep 28, 2021 by Matthew Van Dongen Hamilton Spectator

Most HSR bus drivers and maintenance workers have not disclosed their COVID vaccination status under a mandatory city jab policy the transit union calls “unlawful.”

If the dispute goes unresolved, some operators could be banned from driving HSR buses — even as the city tries to recover from a dramatic pandemic crash in transit ridership.

Council recently approved a policy that requires all 7,000-plus city workers to get a double dose of the COVID vaccine by Nov. 1 or agree to regular testing for the virus. Any employee who refuses both options would be banned from city property — including buses.

As a first step, workers were supposed to disclose vaccination status to the city by Sept. 15. About two-thirds of city workers did so on time, said city human resources head Lora Fontana.

By comparison, only 117 out of 687 HSR drivers and maintenance workers — about 17 per cent — have disclosed their vaccination status, said Fontana, who added transit union leaders are “quite vocal about their displeasure with the policy.”

In Toronto, the Amalgamated Transit Union has advised municipal transit workers against disclosing their vaccination status, calling that city’s mandatory jab policy an “unjust intrusion.”

Hamilton’s union has not instructed members to withhold such information, said president Eric Tuck — but it will defend their “freedom to choose.”

In an interview, Tuck stressed the union encourages vaccination and added he believes a majority of drivers have already got the jab. But he called the mandatory shot policy “disrespectful” and unnecessarily “adversarial,” arguing the city risks an exodus of drivers it can’t afford to lose during the hoped-for pandemic recovery.

The city has said workers who refuse to abide by the policy face “possible discipline,” but not termination.

Tuck was more pointed in a letter to city council that says ATU Local 107 has received a legal opinion that labels Hamilton’s vaccine policy “unlawful,” a violation of privacy rights and the collective agreement.

“It is the union’s position that you cannot require our members … to disclose their medical information (including vaccination status) nor undergo mandatory vaccination,” reads the letter, which will be considered by council at Wednesday’s meeting. “We will vigorously defend our members’ rights in this regard.”

The union has already filed a grievance against the city over what it says was a lack of consultation on the vaccination policy ahead of time.

Fontana said the city has offered to meet with the transit union to discuss its concerns and noted there is still time to reach an understanding.

Any city workers who have not disclosed their vaccination status were supposed to attend an education session last week and must show proof of a first COVID shot by Sept. 30. Proof of a second jab is required by Nov. 1.

Anyone who skips the shot or has a valid medical or human rights exemption must submit to regular COVID tests in order to go to work on city property.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission recently stated mandating and requiring proof of vaccination is “generally permissible” as long as those individuals who can't get the shot for human rights reasons are “reasonably accommodated.”

Tuck said union members were participating in a town hall Monday to learn more about the city’s policy and the union’s legal opinion.

Matthew Van Dongen is a Hamilton-based reporter covering transportation for The Spectator. Reach him via email: mvandongen@thespec.com

Most HSR bus drivers won’t tell the city if they’ve had the COVID jab

The union says a majority of drivers are likely vaccinated, but it is still opposing the city’s ‘unlawful’ mandatory jab policy.

News Sep 28, 2021 by Matthew Van Dongen Hamilton Spectator

Most HSR bus drivers and maintenance workers have not disclosed their COVID vaccination status under a mandatory city jab policy the transit union calls “unlawful.”

If the dispute goes unresolved, some operators could be banned from driving HSR buses — even as the city tries to recover from a dramatic pandemic crash in transit ridership.

Council recently approved a policy that requires all 7,000-plus city workers to get a double dose of the COVID vaccine by Nov. 1 or agree to regular testing for the virus. Any employee who refuses both options would be banned from city property — including buses.

As a first step, workers were supposed to disclose vaccination status to the city by Sept. 15. About two-thirds of city workers did so on time, said city human resources head Lora Fontana.

By comparison, only 117 out of 687 HSR drivers and maintenance workers — about 17 per cent — have disclosed their vaccination status, said Fontana, who added transit union leaders are “quite vocal about their displeasure with the policy.”

In Toronto, the Amalgamated Transit Union has advised municipal transit workers against disclosing their vaccination status, calling that city’s mandatory jab policy an “unjust intrusion.”

Hamilton’s union has not instructed members to withhold such information, said president Eric Tuck — but it will defend their “freedom to choose.”

In an interview, Tuck stressed the union encourages vaccination and added he believes a majority of drivers have already got the jab. But he called the mandatory shot policy “disrespectful” and unnecessarily “adversarial,” arguing the city risks an exodus of drivers it can’t afford to lose during the hoped-for pandemic recovery.

The city has said workers who refuse to abide by the policy face “possible discipline,” but not termination.

Tuck was more pointed in a letter to city council that says ATU Local 107 has received a legal opinion that labels Hamilton’s vaccine policy “unlawful,” a violation of privacy rights and the collective agreement.

“It is the union’s position that you cannot require our members … to disclose their medical information (including vaccination status) nor undergo mandatory vaccination,” reads the letter, which will be considered by council at Wednesday’s meeting. “We will vigorously defend our members’ rights in this regard.”

The union has already filed a grievance against the city over what it says was a lack of consultation on the vaccination policy ahead of time.

Fontana said the city has offered to meet with the transit union to discuss its concerns and noted there is still time to reach an understanding.

Any city workers who have not disclosed their vaccination status were supposed to attend an education session last week and must show proof of a first COVID shot by Sept. 30. Proof of a second jab is required by Nov. 1.

Anyone who skips the shot or has a valid medical or human rights exemption must submit to regular COVID tests in order to go to work on city property.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission recently stated mandating and requiring proof of vaccination is “generally permissible” as long as those individuals who can't get the shot for human rights reasons are “reasonably accommodated.”

Tuck said union members were participating in a town hall Monday to learn more about the city’s policy and the union’s legal opinion.

Matthew Van Dongen is a Hamilton-based reporter covering transportation for The Spectator. Reach him via email: mvandongen@thespec.com