USW Local 1998 – Statement on Employer’s Pause of COVID-19 Policies

The Union Urges the U of T to Reconsider Its Decision to Pause Its Masking, Physical Distancing & UCheck COVID-19 Symptom Protocols

As of August 27, 2021, all employers with USW Local 1998 members (University of Toronto, Victoria, St. Mike’s and U of T Schools) implemented vaccine policies for their staff and students. In a notice to the University of Toronto Community on March 29, 2022, the University of Toronto announced it will be pausing the following measures effective May 1, 2022:

  • The requirement to complete health screening via UCheck prior to attending University premises 
  • The requirement to be fully vaccinated for in-person activities on University premises 
  • The requirement to be masked in indoor University spaces, unless otherwise required 

The University has stated that the changing health restrictions are being made in response to the Ontario government’s Roadmap to Reopen and public health guidance in Toronto and Mississauga.

Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Kieran Moore and Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eileen De Villa have both asserted that vaccine and masking mandates are not appropriate at this point in the pandemic but are urging people to continue to get vaccinated and recommending indoor masking continue.

Employers have a legal obligation to ensure a safe workplace and to follow Public Health and provincial guidelines on COVID-19 and while provincial mandates have been lifted, employers are urged to continue safety measures including that of masking indoors. Employers do have the discretion to maintain a vaccination policy, daily COVID-19 screening, and masking requirements.

The Union believes that the University’s decision to pause the masking indoors, maintaining physical distancing and UCheck COVID-19 safety protocols is premature. With public health experts urging caution as the province enters a sixth wave of the pandemic and with an increased presence of U of T community members on campus, USW is urging the employer to continue with the masking, UCheck, physical distancing, ventilation, and disinfection requirements, as well as sewage and waste water testing.

Please see the Union’s August 27, 2021 statement on our employers’ vaccine policies, which states, in part,

“Employers have a legal obligation to ensure a safe workplace and to follow Public Health and provincial guidelines on COVID. We recognize that, in these circumstances, employers have a right to implement a vaccine policy.

The Executive’s position is that any vaccine policy must:

  • have stringent privacy protections for the handling of personal information
    • provide reasonable accommodations that respect the overall health and safety of the workplace
    • does not lead to discipline or termination of our members”

The Union continues to support members who have filed individual vaccination policy related grievances and we will be in touch with them in the coming days with how the University’s decision to pause their vaccination policy as of May 1 changes might impact their grievances and their ability to return to work.

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