CBC is reporting that four of Ottawa’s unions — CUPE 503, CUPE 5550, ATU 279 and ATU 1760 — are grieving the city’s no jab, no job policy. And it is here that I part company with my siblings.
These are (among others) bus drivers, child care workers, public health employees, nurses and paramedics. And their unions are saying “Whatever kind of excuse you have for endangering the lives of your co-workers, clients and the public is fine with us. We’ll grieve your right to cause havoc.”
The one representative who had the nerve to be quoted — ATU 279 (bus drivers) president Clint Crabtree — said “I have members for various reasons that don’t want to receive this vaccination. And that’s what this union is doing … protecting the rights of all members.”
Unions do not protect all their members’ rights all the time. I’m sure Bro. Crabtree knows this because he goes to the joint health and safety committee and grievance committee meetings (or at least reads the reports) where union and management sit down and decide what rules are set to keep employees safe.
No being racist, no sexually harassing your co-workers, wear protective clothing and equipment, take the training, no coming to work stoned, drunk or high, keep your fingers away from the slicey-thing. The list goes on.
He also knows his members have bona fide occupational requirements. Driver’s licenses, dress codes, certifications etc etc.
And if workers don’t follow those rules, they’re disciplined. Fired, even. And the union shrugs and says “well, brother/sister, it’s for your own good.”
I worked for unions for 24 years. I get that they defend people who may have done bad things on the premise that “innocent until proven guilty” applies to a workplace too. But that’s not what’s going on here. This is the union taking preemptive action to fight for individuals’ right to harm themselves and others.
I would think workplace drug testing would be an analogous situation. I expect Crabtree would agree that it would be bad for someone to be driving the number 86 drunk. His union does. Same for a CUPE 503 paramedic driving an ambulance. And they would — as CUPE has — come up with a framework for permitting the employer to ensure its employees are following this rule. A framework that includes drug testing.
And yet they are treating vaccination like a no-harm, no-foul civil rights issue, like wearing buttons in the workplace, or cultural adaptations to uniforms, or workplace bulletin boards when it is not. COVID-19 is now the plague of the unvaccinated. If the unions fight this, their members will get sick. Some will die and some will endure long term health problems. And they may take others with them.
At a minimum the city’s unions should put these grievances on the “much much later” pile (hold them in abeyance is the legal term) — in case Jim Watson’s regime engages in some actual genuine abuse — and publicly, without reservation urge their members to get vaccinated.
It would be better if they withdrew them altogether to send a message to the anti-vaxxers in their ranks that the union believes in community and in solidarity for the betterment and protection of all.