Fighting for Front-line Workers
/ Author: Peter Vlaar
/ Categories: Blogs, Newsletters /
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Fighting for Front-line Workers

CLAC is standing up for the rights of workers who have been terminated due to vaccine mandates. This is a fight about the amount of power an employer can wield over their employees.

I’ve never considered myself a front-line worker. Working as an in-house lawyer for CLAC, I represent members who have been wronged by their employer, as well as injured workers who have been denied claims by the workers’ compensation board.

When the pandemic first hit, I had the luxury of working in the comfort and safety of my basement, replacing in-person meetings and hearings with phone calls and Zoom appearances.

I think that if you can do your job for the entire day in your sweatpants, you are about as far removed from the terms “essential worker” or “front-line hero” as you can be. I identify more as a pencil pusher or desk jockey and am more closely associated with the people yelling “retreat!” as they run in the opposite direction of danger.

You’ll appreciate my surprise when I recently learned that I am on the front line. Not the same front line as the healthcare workers and many essential workers across the country, but on the front line of the legal fight against mandatory vaccination policies in the workplace.

As a union, CLAC has been pushing back against employers from the very first policy that mandated vaccination as an ongoing condition of employment.

We have always encouraged our members to get the vaccine. We believe it is safe and effective at reducing severe illness and hospitalization, so it’s an important part of our collective effort to reduce the strain on hospitals and healthcare workers.

However, in light of evolving variants, waning vaccine efficacy, and the availability of reasonable alternatives such as rapid antigen testing, we do not believe that the workers who exercise their free will to not get the vaccine should pay the ultimate price for that decision by being terminated.

CLAC is at the front lines of the fight against employers and has several cases currently before labour arbitrators in Ontario.

This is not a fight about vaccines. It is fundamentally a fight about the amount of power an employer can wield over their employees and the circumstances in which that power can be exercised.

Whether you are in favour or against COVID vaccines, the outcome of cases such as this one could have significant implications on your future work.

As a union that cares deeply about justice and the dignity of all workers, CLAC is proud to be serving as a check on employer power in this situation

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