Web banner. Text: The fight for workers after the convoy. Image: illustration of a crowd of people

CUPE Education webinar: The fight for workers after the convoy

creynolds Political Action

Sponsored by CUPE Education in the Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Atlantic regions.

The so-called “Freedom Convoy” occupied the streets of Ottawa for 23 days this winter. Spin-off protests and blockades have rocked cities and towns across the country. Who organized these protests and what are their goals? What does it mean for workers? And how can CUPE members respond?

Three CUPE regions are coming together to co-host a webinar to look at these questions and more. Join us for a discussion with Kurt Phillips from Canadian Anti-Hate NetworkAubrey GonsalvesCUPE diversity vice-president; and Angella MacEwenCUPE National’s senior economist.

The COVID pandemic put a huge strain on our public services and revealed the gaps in Canada’s social safety net. What will that mean for politics in Canada going forward? How do we fight back against the rise of the far-right, racism and white supremacy? Workers and the labour movement have a responsibility to answer these questions. This is sure to be an informative and engaging event—invite your friends and family to join.

ASL and French language interpretation will be provided.

What: The Fight for Workers After the Convoy Webinar
When: March 30, 5:00 p.m. in AB and SK, 8 p.m. in NS, and 8:30 pm in NL
Register to attend here: https://cupe-ca.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_Yasc264IR7qRnWNvfGBWqw

>> Download a copy of the poster for your workplace and local office!

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Become a member of the CUPE Atlantic Maritime Region Indigenous Council

creynolds Human Rights, Indigenous, Racial Equality

Calling all CUPE members in the Atlantic-Maritimes region who self-identify as Indigenous – First Nations, Metis or Inuit!

Please consider joining the newly created CUPE Atlantic Maritime Region Indigenous Council (CAMIC). The first meeting is tentatively scheduled for June 9 to 11, 2022.

The deadline to apply is May 1, 2022.

Constitutional amendments were recently passed by four divisions to create the council. The divisions will cover the cost of participation.

Email your expression of interest to:
CUPE NB sdrost@cupe.ca
CUPE NL egreen@cupe.ca
CUPE NS cmelanson@hotmail.com
CUPE PEI lgallant@cupe.ca

 

 

Web banner. Image of boot print and the CUPE NL logo. Text: Reject the Reset.

CUPE members call on the public to reject Andrew Furey’s big reset – Information picket Sunday, December 5

creynolds Event, News Release

Web banner. Image of boot print and the CUPE NL logo. Text: Reject the Reset.CUPE members are calling on the public to reject Premier Andrew Fury’s big reset and will hold an information picket on December 5 at the Farmers’ Market in St. John’s.

“Premier Andrew Furey wants everyone to think he has the public’s best interests at heart, but what his plan is really doing is putting more money in the pockets of corporations and billionaires,” says Sherry Hillier, CUPE NL president. “The private sector is always looking for more ways to generate profit and taking over public services can be extremely profitable – by cutting corners on safety and quality, pushing down wages and benefits, and working people into the ground.”

“It’s shocking that the premier would consider selling off our publicly-owned assets that generate millions of dollars in revenue, but that plan is already in motion now,” says Hillier. “Sure, we may pay off some debt now, but how’ll we generate revenue in the future if we don’t hold onto these assets?”

WHAT: Info picket busting the myths created by Premier Furey’s “big reset”.

WHEN: Sunday, December 5, from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m.

WHERE: Farmers’ Market, Freshwater Road, St. John’s

WHO: CUPE NL President Sherry Hillier and CUPE members

CUPE is asking all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to reject the premier’s so-called “reset” and to fight the proposed cuts to the public sector and vital public services – before it’s too late. Visit RejectTheResetNL.ca to learn more.

Myth Busters – Reject the Reset

creynolds Political Action

Busting the myths created by Premier Furey’s “big reset” to save the economy by privatizing public services, selling off assets, and cutting jobs.


MYTH

Deep cuts are necessary to pay down the debt.

FACT

Massive cuts are not needed. We can cover the deficit with well thought-out, phased-in revenue growth. Our government needs to drive economic growth by offering more training opportunities, helping workers transition into new job sectors, reducing income inequality, and creating a fairer tax system.

These revenue options could generate $800 million:

  • Increase taxes on high income earners and large corporations
  • Continue to raise carbon tax rates
  • Introduce new taxes on extreme wealth and luxury goods

MYTH

Selling off our public assets is necessary to pay down the debt.

FACT

It’s shocking that Premier Furey would even consider selling off our publicly-owned assets that generate millions of dollars in revenue, but that plan is already in motion now. He’s planning to sell off public assets such as NL Hydro, NL Liquor, and the Motor Vehicle Registry, just to name a few.

Sure, we may pay off some debt now, but how will we generate revenue in the future if we don’t hold onto these assets? We’ll lose billions in revenue if we lose these publicly-owned assets. NL Liquor is very profitable. In the last ten years, dividends have totalled $1.6 billion. In 2019 to 2020, our province received $91 million in revenue from vehicle and driver licenses, and $70 million from registration of deeds, companies and securities.


MYTH

The premier’s proposed job cuts will hardly be noticeable.

FACT

The premier’s plan is a job killer, and we’ll all suffer for it. It will put almost 9,000 people on the unemployment line. That’s 5% of full-time jobs in the province!

Nearly ¾ of the jobs lost will be in the health care sector, and many of them will be in rural areas where jobs and health care services are increasingly harder to come by. We cannot afford 6,500 fewer public health care workers, especially after the pandemic, and a massive cyberattack that has disrupted our healthcare system, cancelling thousands of procedures.

Spending cuts could also result in 1,000 fewer jobs at Memorial University and the College of the North Atlantic. Some campuses will inevitably close.


MYTH

With the premier’s plan we’ll still have all the public services we need.

FACT

Governments like to use code words like “alternative service delivery” and “shared services” to cover up what they’re really doing – handing over our public services and facilities to big business. We’ll lose control of those services, costs will rise, and quality will suffer.

Changes outlined in the premier’s plan, which have already begun, will make it harder for parents to have a say in their children’s education. Many good jobs will be lost as HR, IT, payroll, maintenance and other jobs are handed over to private, for-profit companies.

Regional health authorities will shutter hospitals and clinics across the province. Health care services like blood work, diagnostic testing, and more, could be handed over to private, for-profit companies.


MYTH

The premier’s team just wants what’s best for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

FACT

They know that their plan will put more money in the pockets of corporations and billionaires. The private sector is always looking for more ways to generate profit, and taking over public services can be extremely profitable – by cutting corners on safety and quality, pushing down wages and benefits, and working people into the ground.


CONTACT YOUR MHA AND TELL THEM TO “REJECT THE RESET”

We must reject Premier Furey’s plan before it’s too late!

Newfoundlanders and Labradorians know they can count on public services to make life more affordable and more equal, and improve our communities and our quality of life.

Contact info for MHAs: assembly.nl.ca/members/members.aspx


Download a copy: one-page version of the pamphlet.

Image of the Reject the Reset one-page pamphlet

Web banner. CUPE 1349: Perfectly United. Town of Grand Falls-Windsor.

CUPE 1349 ratifies collective agreement with Town of Grand Falls-Windsor

creynolds Collective Bargaining

Members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 1349 voted this evening in favour of ratifying a new collective agreement with the Town of Grand Falls-Windsor.

The collective agreement is effective retroactively from January 2, 2021, to December 31, 2025. The deal includes wage increases, a signing bonus, as well as improvements to call-in language that will allow greater work-life balance for casual workers.

The union proposed a new “rate stabilization fund” that will ensure accountability, affordability, and transparency for the health benefits plan, which the town agreed to. “We think this shows our members’ willingness to take shared responsibility of the benefits plan,” says CUPE National Representative Ed White. The town will be the administrators of the fund, with oversight by the union.

The collective agreement must also be ratified by the employer and once that is complete the members of CUPE 1349 will resume their jobs. “We’ll be working with the employer to see that the ‘return to work’ agreement is implemented to ensure a period of healing and respectful return to work, for both union and non-union staff,” says CUPE 1349 President Tammie Greening.

“We believe this is a fair deal for our members, the town, and residents,” says Greening, who thanked the bargaining committee for their hard work and praised members for their support and solidarity.

CUPE 1349 represents approximately 100 municipal workers who work in recreation services, fire dispatch, administration, taxation and finance, road maintenance, water and sewage, municipal enforcement, and engineering and planning.

Grand Falls-Windsor municipal workers reach tentative agreement

creynolds Collective Bargaining

After a marathon bargaining session over the course of several days, municipal workers in Grand Falls-Windsor, represented by CUPE 1349, reached a tentative agreement with their employer today. The agreement puts an end to a 14-week long lockout.

Details of the contract will not be made available until it has been presented to CUPE 1349 members and they have ratified the agreement. The union’s bargaining committee will recommend that the membership accept the tentative collective agreement and a ratification vote will take place in the coming days.

CUPE national representative Ed White says, “This has been a difficult process for all involved, but we are satisfied that the changes to the agreement will serve our members, the town, and residents well. After the agreement is ratified, we’ll work with the employer to see the ‘return to work’ agreement executed, as well as the resumption of public services provided by our members.”

“We want to express our appreciation to the community for supporting us during this difficult process. Words cannot express how much your support has meant to us,” says Tammie Greening, president of CUPE 1349.

“I’d also like to thank our bargaining committee for all their work in reaching a deal,” adds Greening. “We want to thank all the other unions who came out to support us, and our mobilization committee and members for having our back. It’s their solidarity and determination that carried us through the past few months.”

CUPE NL President Sherry Hillier says, “The members of Local 1349 did an outstanding job supporting each other as they tried to end the lockout. They really are an amazing group of trade unionists and I was proud to join them on the line.”

CUPE Local 1349 represents approximately 100 municipal workers employed by the Town of Grand Falls-Windsor who work in recreation services, fire dispatch, administration, taxation and finance, road maintenance, water and sewage, municipal enforcement, and engineering and planning.

Web banner. Text only. Frequently Asked Questions: COVID-19 vaccine mandates

Frequently Asked Questions: Vaccine Mandates

creynolds COVID-19 Fact Sheets, Occupational Health & Safety

COVID-19 has been with us for more than 18 months now and has taken a toll on workers in most sectors. While CUPE continues to encourage all workers who can become vaccinated to do so, we also recognize that this a decision that each individual member will make for themselves.

On September 29, the Newfoundland and Labrador government announced that they would be mandating the vaccination of all provincial government employees. Employees are required to be fully vaccinated by December 17.

There is a lot of inaccurate information available about employee choices, relevant legislation, and how unions can represent members. CUPE strongly believes members have a right to receive accurate information, including a realistic assessment of the current situation and potential consequences that might flow from their choices.

To that end, CUPE has produced this list of “Frequently Asked Questions” and answers to help ensure that members have accurate information to make informed choices.

Download a copy of the FAQ
All workers who can be vaccinated should get vaccinated. Vaccination programs that are the most effective, according to the World Health Organization, are voluntary and not coercive.

Some workers cannot be vaccinated for medical or religious reasons. These workers are protected under the relevant human rights legislation and must be accommodated as the law provides.

For any other worker who chooses not to become vaccinated, their individual right to choose may come into conflict with the collective rights of their co-workers and their families. A worker who chooses not to become vaccinated may be required to wear a mask, social distance, or even take an unpaid leave of absence.

Discipline and harassment are not appropriate responses to a worker who chooses not to take a vaccine.

You can view CUPE’s vaccine mandate guidelines online at cupe.ca/vaccine-mandate-guidelines.

Every CUPE local is in a different situation, but all are working to ensure their members’ voices are being heard. Depending on specific circumstances, some locals will be able to use the grievance process to challenge the overall policy, while others will be working to ensure the application of the policy meets the employer’s obligations under the collective agreement and applicable legislation.

Regardless of the strategy, elected union officials have been working through the entire COVID-19 situation to support our members and will continue to do so. Members are encouraged to reach out to their local executives with their questions and concerns about any employer policy or practice.

Employers can implement vaccination policies unilaterally, so long as those policies do not conflict with the collective agreement and are reasonable. Policies that conform to NL Public Health directives will likely withstand arbitral review.

A “reasonable” vaccination policy is one that balances the employer’s interests in protecting workers and the public from the dangers of COVID-19 against workers’ interests in “bodily integrity” and privacy. COVID-19 policies must also comply with the Human Rights Act.

An employer cannot physically force a worker to be vaccinated. Though it may not feel like it, there is a legal difference between forcing a worker to be vaccinated and imposing work-related consequences on a worker who chooses not to become vaccinated. Just because a worker suffers negative consequences for not being vaccinated does not mean that their employer is forcing them to be vaccinated. So long as a worker has a choice whether to be vaccinated or not, even if they feel pressure from the employer, they are not being forced to be vaccinated. What is relevant is whether the vaccination policy reasonably balances the employer interests in maintaining a healthy workforce and preserving public health, and worker interests in privacy and bodily integrity.
There are no arbitration cases that have considered COVID-19 vaccine policies that we are aware of. There are many decisions over the last thirty years related to flu vaccination policies as well as a number of cases related to mandatory COVID-19 testing policies. These cases provide some guidance about the kinds of consequences that employers may impose on workers who choose not to be vaccinated.

Each policy must be assessed individually to determine if it is reasonable. However, in the health care sectors, arbitrators have upheld policies that have placed unvaccinated workers on modified job duties that reduce their interactions with patients or other workers, as well as policies that place unvaccinated workers on unpaid leaves of absence for the duration of outbreaks.

Modified duties or alternative work assignments within some sectors are more difficult to find and sometimes nonexistent. It is important to recognize that the COVID-19 pandemic is not just another flu season. Arbitrators will view COVID-19 as being more serious and may be willing to accept even more significant consequences for workers as “reasonable”.

For example, in flu vaccine cases unpaid leaves of absence tended to last only for a relatively short period of time (i.e., until a flu outbreak in the workplace resolved). In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, arbitrators may accept that, even if there is no outbreak in the workplace, workers may be placed on unpaid leaves of absence. These leaves of absence may be for long periods of time, as there is no clear end to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

There is no legal basis to refuse to comply with an employer policy based solely on an “individual choice” argument. However, we are in uncharted territory. There are good arguments that a worker cannot be terminated, but the law in this area is uncertain.

Case law from flu vaccination disputes have shown that employer policies deemed reasonable did not result in discipline. Arbitrators in flu vaccination cases have repeatedly emphasized that the policies that they have upheld as reasonable did not result in discipline. This suggests that it is important for a policy to be non-disciplinary in order to be considered reasonable.

A policy that terminates an employee for non-vaccination would be different. There is a good legal argument that this type of policy would not be reasonable because it does not adequately respect the workers’ right to choose what medical treatment to undertake.

However, there are no cases that have considered a policy that involved the threat of termination as part of a vaccine policy, and so we do not know how an arbitrator would decide this kind of case. Although CUPE would present this as “unreasonable”, there is a risk that an arbitrator would view COVID-19 as being so serious that it would justify this type of policy.

Members in workplaces with policies that threaten termination should understand that, if they refuse to become vaccinated, the employer might terminate their employment. If this happens and the union were to grieve the termination, it could not guarantee a particular outcome.

A local will consult about a grievance and take the grievors’ interests into account in its decision making, along with the interest of other members of the bargaining unit. The grievance rests with the local and they will ultimately decide how to proceed. The individual might be reinstated to employment, or they might lose the case.

At this time, it is uncertain how arbitrators will handle terminations arising from breaches of mandatory vaccination policies. Even if a grievance goes to arbitration and the arbitrator reinstates the worker, they may not receive any damages and may not be allowed to return to work immediately.

Regardless of outcome, members need to know that this type of litigation often takes a long time. Workers should understand the risks and uncertainty that they face when deciding whether to become vaccinated or not.

There may be other aspects of COVID-19 policies that, if not complied with, would be grounds for discipline. Possible examples include:

  • A worker who forges a fake vaccination record as proof of vaccination and provides it to the employer, where the policy requires workers to provide proof of vaccination.
  • A worker who refuses to attend a vaccine education session that is held during work hours, where the policy requires unvaccinated workers to attend such training.
  • A worker who attends the workplace without a negative COVID-19 test, if the policy requires unvaccinated workers to provide such test results.
  • A worker who refuses to disclose vaccination status, where the policy requires employees to disclose vaccination status.
  • A worker who refuses to wear a mask and social distance, where the policy requires unvaccinated workers to wear masks and social distance.
Yes, so long as this information is kept confidential, is protected from unauthorized access, and is used only for the purpose of administering a COVID-19 vaccination policy or complying with applicable laws.

Workers have privacy rights in the workplace. There are also limits to an employee’s right to privacy.

Employers have the right to information that is necessary for them to run their workplace. This includes information that is necessary for them to implement a reasonable COVID-19 vaccination policy. This would likely include whether each employee is vaccinated or not, as well as proof of vaccination for those workers who are vaccinated. In short, your employer can request your vaccination status as part of a vaccination policy and the expectation is that you provide it.

Employers must still protect worker’s privacy when they collect this type of personal medical information. Employers are required to ensure that only those people who need to have access to this information do have access to it. Other workers, or members of the public, or management that does not have a need to access this information, should not have access. Steps should be taken to make sure that this information is stored securely, such as using locked cabinets or password protection on computers.

Regular COVID-19 testing before accessing the workplace would likely be another option for reasonable accommodation for unvaccinated workers, unless the worker is unable to be tested for a reason protected by human rights legislation. This will only be a viable alternative if it is allowed by legislation or Public Health orders.

Under occupational health and safety legislation, employers must make every reasonable effort in the circumstances to protect the health and safety of workers. This includes reducing the risk of exposure to the COVID-19 virus. Though each policy will be judged on its own merits, it is highly unlikely that an arbitrator would rule in favor of workers that do not wish to be vaccinated or tested.

There have already been cases considering mandatory rapid COVID-19 testing. Arbitrators have upheld mandatory COVID-19 testing policies, concluding that they fairly balance employee privacy and bodily autonomy interests with the objectives of workers and public safety. It is increasingly unlikely that an arbitrator would overturn a requirement for regular COVID-19 testing.

The Human Rights Act applies to workplace vaccination policies. Workers who are unable to become vaccinated for reasons that are covered by the Act have the right to reasonable accommodation, up to the point of undue hardship on the employer.

A worker cannot be disciplined for not being vaccinated if the reason that they are not vaccinated is protected by the Act. The Act protects against discrimination on several grounds. The two grounds that are most likely to be relevant with respect to vaccination policies are disability and religion.

Workers who have a documented medical condition that makes them unable to become vaccinated with an available COVID-19 vaccine are protected by the Act on the ground of disability. To be protected on the ground of disability, a worker must be able to provide objective medical evidence from a qualified health care practitioner (i.e., doctor or nurse practitioner) that taking the available COVID-19 vaccines is contraindicated.

Workers should be made aware that:

  • Medical conditions related to vaccines other than the available COVID-19 vaccines would not be relevant unless a health care professional provided evidence that the condition also prevents the worker from taking available COVID-19 vaccines.
  • Self-reported medical conditions or symptoms are not enough. Employers are entitled to receive objective medical evidence from an independent healthcare professional.
  • Concerns about the safety or efficacy of available COVID-19 vaccines (including concerns about long-term side effects, adverse reactions, or Health Canada’s approval process) do not constitute grounds for protection under the Act.
A singular belief against vaccination, or against the COVID-19 vaccines, would not warrant a religious exemption under the Act. Similarly, beliefs that an individual should be allowed to decide what vaccines to take, or beliefs about the safety or efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines or the dangers of COVID-19, are not sincerely held religious beliefs as understood under the Act.

If a person’s religion prevents them from becoming vaccinated, they are entitled to “reasonable” accommodation. An individual may not use a claim of religion that does not reflect a sincerely held belief as an excuse not to become vaccinated.

Accommodations for religious reasons might be difficult to substantiate. The Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Commission has said they are “not aware of any major religions that have a theological opposition to vaccines.”

Reasonable accommodation is an individualized process that depends on the specific circumstances of the individual, including the details of their disability or religion, the nature of their job duties and, in the context of the current pandemic, the prevailing public health situation and state of scientific knowledge. What will be a “reasonable” accommodation for one worker may or may not be a reasonable accommodation for another worker.

Unions, workers and employers have a duty to cooperate and work together to identify reasonable accommodations. Flu vaccine case law suggests that there are a number of accommodations that could be reasonable for unvaccinated workers, depending on the circumstances, including modified job duties and paid leaves of absence.

While extended unpaid leaves of absence are less likely to constitute a reasonable accommodation, employers will likely try to demonstrate that the requirement to pay during a leave of absence would constitute undue hardship. Regular COVID-19 testing before accessing the workplace would likely be another option for reasonable accommodation for unvaccinated workers, unless the worker is unable to be tested for a reason protected by the Act.

While an employer is not permitted to discipline a worker who is unable to become vaccinated due to disability or religious belief, it is not “discipline” for an employer to place a worker on an unpaid leave because no suitable accommodation is available.

The Charter only applies to the actions of governments, and not to private employers. A Charter challenge could only be brought against the government’s vaccine mandate and not to the rules or policies implemented by employers.

It is unlikely that a Charter challenge will succeed. First, the applicant would need to establish that a vaccine mandate deprives them of life, liberty or security of person. This is unlikely, because mandatory vaccination policies do not contemplate holding a person down and physically forcing them to be vaccinated. Instead, the policies impose consequences – either an unpaid leave of absence or termination.

The consequences of not adhering to a workplace vaccination policy are economic (in the form of losing earnings or employment), and there is case law indicating section 7 of the Charter does not apply to purely economic (i.e., monetary) interests.

Even if a violation of section 7 of the Charter were established, the measure could be saved under section 1 which says that Charter rights are guaranteed, “subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.” The government could rely on the exceptional circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic as providing it a wider berth to implement measures designed to stop the spread of the virus.

A small portion of people may have adverse reactions to a vaccination and other may feel unwell for a period of time (see the Government of Canada’s COVID-19 Vaccine safety and side effects). While it is not yet clear how WorkplaceNL would adjudicate such a claim we would recommend members file a report with them (see WorkplaceNL’s directions on how to file a new claim).

In all other cases members should follow workplace protocols related to the symptoms they are experiencing and utilize sick leave if available and appropriate.

The impacts of COVD-19 have been disproportionately unfair, especially to workers in acute and long-term care. However, we believe that workers have the right to understand the law as it currently stands.

Even if workers believe the law is unfair, it is important that they understand what the law is, so they may understand the consequences of their choices.



Download a copy of the FAQ
Sherry Hillier speaking at an event

Cooperation with unions necessary for government and employers during rollout of vaccine mandate

creynolds COVID-19 Announcements, News Release, Occupational Health & Safety

CUPE Newfoundland and Labrador is calling on the provincial government and employers to consult with unions – ahead of and throughout – the rollout of the mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy for public sector workers announced today. 

“Cooperation between the province and unions, and cooperation between employers and unions, will be necessary as the vaccine mandate is carried out,” says CUPE Newfoundland and Labrador President Sherry Hillier.

CUPE will be monitoring the situation closely and we’ll be addressing employers’ actions on a case-by-case basis.

“We have an obligation to all our members, including those who are not vaccinated,” says Hillier. “Employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations for employees who cannot be vaccinated for medical or religious reasons.”

“We’ve asked our locals to contact employers to let them know that the union expects to be consulted ahead rolling out any vaccine related policies.” CUPE NL represents 6,300 members working in schools, hospitals, nursing homes, community services, NL Housing, home support, transition homes, universities and colleges, and other public sector workplaces.

“Since the beginning, we have been encouraging our members to get vaccinated as soon as possible,” says Hillier, “and we have heard from many of our locals that there has been an increase in members getting vaccinated over the past two weeks,” says Hillier.

“CUPE has always placed a priority on our members’ health and safety. Our members have the right to be safe at work, and people have the right to receive public services in a safe environment,” says Hillier.