COVID-19 vaccine might be required for some federal positions, Treasury Board says
Vaccine requirements being considered for specific roles and workplaces
The Treasury Board Secretariat says it will be considering whether COVID-19 vaccines need to be required for certain roles and positions in the federal government.
In a statement, the department that oversees much of the federal workforce said departments that consider making COVID-19 vaccination a requirement for specific roles and positions would base their decision on occupational health and hazard prevention programs, medical expertise and legal requirements.
While all eligible employees are being urged to get vaccinated, not everybody can be, the treasury board said.
"COVID-19 vaccines are not mandatory for employees," the statement concluded.
Debi Daviau, president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC), said the union still doesn't know which positions or workplaces may require workers to share proof they've been vaccinated.
"We recognize there are people within our membership who may fall into this category," Daviau said.
"We represent nurses and health-care workers and they are very often in close quarters with the clients that they serve. They may be required to vaccinate to continue to work in those facilities. Or maybe they'll be reassigned to other duties if they refuse vaccinations."
Daviau said the union will advocate on behalf of members who are being reassigned, but as they represent the government scientists who approved COVID-19 vaccines, they encourage their members to get vaccinated.
"We are in favour of vaccination for all of our members. For those members who might be putting others at risk in the work that they do, I think we have to consider the health and safety of the Canadians that they serve," she said.
"There may be some compromises made around mandatory vaccinations because the facts and evidence support that people need to get these vaccinations."
Workplace design another factor
Both PIPSC and their counterparts at the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) say vaccinations must be supplemented with physical distancing and other public health measures.
Chris Aylward, PSAC's national president, said in a recent interview with CBC that some departments have only started to reopen their workplaces,so vaccine requirements have not yet become an issue.
He said some employees may have legitimate medical or religious reasons not to be vaccinated.
"That may become a larger issue and a question that needs to be asked and answered once there is a larger population going into the workplaces," Aylward said.
Aylward said workplace design issues, like seating arrangements and barriers, are a major part of the unions' discussions with the employers.
He said those elements are especially important for workers in his union who deal with clients face-to-face, like employees at Service Canada locations, as they can't know if the people they're interacting with are fully vaccinated or not.