October 21, 2021
By Email: email@example.com
Honourable Omar Alghabra, MP
Minister of Transport
House of Commons Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6
Honourable Minister Alghabra,
I’m writing to you on behalf of 20,000 air transportation workers, and members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) with an urgent request for a meeting regarding Transport Canada’s guidance on federal vaccination mandates. It’s necessary to preface our concerns, and state that we are not opposed to mandatory vaccinations, rather we object to the process in which the policy was developed.
We want to draw your attention to a particularly concerning document, “Consultation Paper-Mandatory Vaccination Policy/Compliance Reporting for Regulated Entities.” Not only is the document problematic, but lack of meaningful consultation with bargaining agents, as is guaranteed under the law, the Canada Labour Code, raises serious concerns about the government’s lack of regard for the role of unions on this critical issue. Simply put, those who will be affected by Transport Canada’s guidelines, did not have a voice nor meaningful input at the table.
The initial announcement about mandatory vaccinations was issued in August 2021, and since then Transport Canada has stalled on engaging stakeholders in a consultative process, which should have included unions from the onset. Furthermore, Transport Canada issued the consultation papers ten (10) days in advance of the deadline, October 30th for compliance. This timeline does not allow for any opportunity to address and amend the flawed guidelines. From our perspective, this is unacceptable and shows utter disregard for air transportation workers who have worked under the most challenging of conditions, oftentimes during COVID-19 outbreaks, without appropriate health and safety protocols and personal protective equipment.
The policy is also inconsistent with guidance from Human Rights Commissions on mandatory workplace vaccination policies. In order to be consistent with human rights legislation, employers have been advised to make mandatory vaccination policies time limited, and subject for review with the goal of assessing the usefulness of such a policy in changing circumstances. Transport Canada guidelines lack this critical requirement.
As a result of the haphazard approach to issuing guidelines from TC, many air transportation employers will not meet legal requirements on privacy and confidentiality when collecting employee medical information. Many of our members have raised concerns about the collection and use of their personal information. Additionally, the tight timeline does not provide for an opportunity for employers and bargaining agents to discuss these matters, which are legitimate problems.
The timeline for implementation and enforcement of this policy is also problematic from a compliance perspective. Some air transportation workers will not have enough time to get vaccinated by the deadline of October 30,2021, and as a result, they will be placed on an unpaid leave of absence. Those workers will lose their benefits, source of income, and will be ineligible for Employment Insurance. Emergency benefits are also expected to expire as of October 23,2021, so a safety net for these workers is non-existent.
The IAMAW will challenge infringements of our member’s privacy and confidentiality, and we will hold employers accountable for their responsibility to be consistent with human rights legislation. This may result in prolonging the implementation of a workplace policy, which only complicates matters further. We expect that a federal department would, at the very least, take into consideration federal labour law and acknowledge the critical role unions play.
We are requesting a meeting immediately to discuss problems raised in this letter in more detail. Our goal is to ensure the flying public, and workers are safe, and that the industry does not suffer another setback.
Given the urgency of this matter, we put forward two meeting dates, October 22 and October 25th. We will also be sharing this letter and our concerns with our members and the public, please respond to our request ASAP.
I look forward to your response and to discussing these matters thoroughly.
GENERAL VICE PRESIDENT