Vaccine requirements set to change for some workplaces

Last week the province lifted its requirement for front-line workers to be vaccinated or regularly tested. Now other employers are looking at their options.

Summerside will not require municipal employees to be vaccinated after April 7

With the province recently deciding to lift its vaccine or testing policy order for front-line public service workers, it's expected other employers will also re-examine their vaccine mandates.

An email from the Public Service Commission said, "While we no longer require front-line staff to adhere to the vaccination or test policy ... there continues to be a number of measures in effect for the safety of our staff." 

The City of Summerside plans to stop its vaccine or test mandate for employees on April 7.

Gordon MacFarlane, deputy chief administrative officer and director of human resources for Summerside, says after that date vaccination will not be required of employees. 

Deputy CAO and Director of Human Resources for Summerside, Gordon MacFarlane said it makes sense to lift vaccine mandates for the city staff. (zoom)

MacFarlane said close to 99 per cent of the city's 300 employees are vaccinated. 

He said the safety of employees is paramount, but as transmission rates fluctuate regardless of vaccination status and  with nearly all employees vaccinated, a mandate is no longer needed. 

"Our policy will be basically paused and we won't require proof of vaccination or testing," said MacFarlane. 

MacFarlane said if things change for the worse, the city will react quickly.

Once provincial rules change on April 7, MacFarlane expects it will be harder for employers to legally enforce vaccine mandates. 

"A lot of this stuff hasn't been tested in any courts or tribunals or labour arbitrators. I think it could definitely potentially be difficult," he said. 

Charlottetown vaccine policy to stay for now

The City of Charlottetown plans to keep its policy requiring employees to have at least two doses of vaccine. The policy was approved at a special meeting of council in October. 

"I'm looking at more of a cautious path," said Mayor Philip Brown.

Brown said the policy will be evaluated every week to ensure the city is respecting CPHO protocols, but at this point anyone hired as seasonal staff will be required to be vaccinated.

A vaccine clinic in Charlottetown was set up for months at the East Link Centre. (Laura Meader/CBC)

"At this point in time, employees, new hires, seasonal workers coming back for the spring and summer will be required to provide their vaccination passport," he said. 

Brown said 99 per cent of employees are vaccinated.

He said a small number of employees who made the choice not to get vaccinated and did not have an accepted reason are currently on leave. 

"It's a health and safety issue," he said. 

The town of Stratford requires all staff to be vaccinated but said it plans to watch what other jurisdictions do and adjust its policy as necessary. 

The town of Cornwall does not have a policy but said all full-time staff voluntarily got vaccinated and the town plans to continue following recommendations of the CPHO. 

Federal employee mandates expected to continue

Many federal employees have been working from home since the pandemic started but some are expected to gradually return to offices, beginning as early as late March. 

Virginia Vaillancourt is the national president for the union of veterans' affairs employees. She said vaccination policies are not expected to change.

"Federal employees are still required to be vaccinated," said Vaillancourt. "If they want to be able to work, they have to be vaccinated." 

Vaillancourt said she has heard from employees hoping the mandate will be lifted, especially as provinces ease restrictions. 

"As long as people are staying safe, I think they should have the options," she said. "The choice on whether to be vaccinated or not." 

Vaillancourt said the majority of the department is vaccinated, but some are not, for varying reasons.

"One would hope there would be more flexibility," she said. "We don't have a ton of people off on leave without pay [because they are not vaccinated] but even one person is too many," she said. 


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