Windsor

Windsor Assembly Plant vaccine mandate 'divisive', Unifor Local 444 says

Stellantis, formerly known as Fiat Chrysler, announced the policy on Thursday.

Stellantis sets Dec. 17 deadline for Windsor employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19

An employee working on the assembly line with added safety precautions at the Stellantis Windsor Assembly Plant. The company says COVID-19 vaccinations will be mandatory for employees as of Dec. 17. (Submitted by FCA)

The head of the union representing workers at Stellantis' Windsor Assembly Plant says the issue of mandatory vaccinations against COVID-19 is "divisive," and the union will continue to represent its members regardless of which side of the issue they fall.

"Our job as a union is to make sure that we protect everybody," Dave Cassidy, president of Unifor Local 444, said in a video posted to Facebook on Thursday.

"If people don't want to get vaccinated, that's your choice. And I don't want to mislead anybody, though, because with choices sometimes there's consequences."

Cassidy, who stopped short of saying whether he supported the mandate or not, said that it's been the toughest issue he's dealt with as union president.

"Some people have met with me, talked with me, and there's a lot of anxiety around it, based on what our media has unfortunately portrayed over a long time, but the other side of that is that I've received a lot of messages from people saying how they support this," he said.

Cassidy was unavailable for an interview on Friday.

Stellantis, formerly known as Fiat Chrysler, announced its vaccination policy on Thursday. Employees, contractors, service providers and visitors at all Canadian Stellantis sites will have to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 17, and provide proof of vaccination.

"Since vaccines have become available, Stellantis has continued to strongly advocate for our employees to get vaccinated as the best way to protect against the transmission and reduce the severity of the illnesses associated with COVID-19," the automaker said in a statement.

A spokesperson for the company said accommodations for anyone seeking an exemption to the policy will be handled on a case-by-case basis.

"The consequences for non-compliance can be severe, including, but not limited to termination of employment," LouAnn Gosselin, Stellantis's head of communications for Canada, said in an email.

The company employs around 5,000 people at its Windsor plant, which manufactures the Chrysler Pacifica minivan.

Stellantis is one of several major employers in Windsor-Essex to adopt a vaccination mandate in recent months, including Windsor Regional Hospital, Hotel Dieu Grace HealthCare and the University of Windsor.

Despite some easing of COVID-19 case rates, local public health officials say Windsor-Essex has one of the highest burdens of COVID-19 of all regions the province.

As of Friday, 261 cases are active locally. There are also 25 ongoing outbreaks —15 of which are taking place at workplaces.

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