In an unprecedented move, rejecting the advice of its own Staff Recommendation Report and the opposite vote of its General Issues Committee, the City of Hamilton has inexplicably voted to proceed with its proposed COVID-19 vaccine mandate, which leaves long-service, loyal city workers facing termination on June 1 if they don’t submit to be fully vaccinated by May 31.

Hamilton Transit workers have been on the front line, serving the traveling public throughout the worst of the pandemic. In fact, they showed up to serve before vaccines were even available and continued to serve for the last two years. Workers were provided the option of testing or getting vaccinated since vaccines were first made available. It is inconceivable on what basis the City suddenly purports to require vaccinations now, at this late stage, as Ontario’s Chief Officer of Medical Health has recommended that all mandates be dropped provincially.

The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 107 is proceeding to expedited arbitration this month on the issue and at Watson Labour Law we’re proud to be representing them in this fight. The Local has been an example of true trade unionism from the outset on this issue, striking the delicate balance between ensuring safety for its members and the traveling public while respecting fundamental individual rights and freedoms for its members. They’ve offered numerous Town Hall meetings with our assistance, affording members the opportunity to ask questions and get accurate information about their legal rights and options.

The ripple effects of the policies we’ve seen (and continue to see) implemented throughout this ordeal are potentially dangerous precedents and many unions have not fully considered the possible consequences of the decisions made during these turbulent times. Our firm has been closely following the issue from the outset to provide meaningful advice, both to meet immediate needs and also considering long-term consequences.

Throughout the entire pandemic, the option of consistent testing has been an available alternative for unvaccinated individuals – an exception that our firm advocated for. This opportunity has proven to be effective in stopping the spread of COVID-19 and was used successfully during peak waves of the pandemic.

The City of Hamilton’s introduction of this new, revised, stricter policy objectively makes no sense, especially this late at the tail end of the pandemic. ATU 107 members went through the peak waves of the pandemic without the requirement for vaccination. Introducing this revised mandatory vaccination policy at the end of the pandemic, while the majority of experts are stating it is no longer unnecessary, makes no sense.

Watson Labour Law will continue to advocate against intrusive policies such as mandatory vaccinations with no alternative and suggest more balanced solutions as many institutions transition back to a pre-covid world.

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