On a new front in the TTC vaccine battle, union calls transit agency’s mandate ‘illegal’

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The TTC’s largest union is intensifying its fight against the transit agency’s vaccine mandate, claiming in new legal filings that the policy for employees to receive their COVID-19 shots is in violation of provincial labor law.

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In a pair of applications made to the Ontario Labor Relations Board on Tuesday, amalgamated transit union Local 113, which represents about 12,000 TTC employees, alleged that management had in recent weeks implemented two COVID-related policies. Indulging in unfair labor practices. The applications have not been scrutinized in the board.

The crux of the union’s case in both filings is that its collective bargaining agreement with the TTC expired at the end of March. The two parties are in arbitration over a new contract, but Local 113 argues that unless an agreement is reached, the Labor Relations Act and other provincial laws mandate a “freeze” period during which the TTC is allowed to hold the membership of the members. The terms of employment are barred from changing.

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The vaccine policy that TTC introduced on September 7 requires that all of its 16,000 employees be fully vaccinated by October 30. Although there are limited exceptions, compliance is a “precondition for employment”. Local 113 claims that the policy “constitutes a significant and dramatic change from the status quo” to what was “explicitly prohibited” during the freeze.

In a second application, the union claims the TTC has also violated the freeze by delaying the date streetcar and subway operators can sign up for their November shifts until after the October 30 vaccination deadline. The TTC says that if a large number of employees are not vaccinated on time, the move is necessary to address potential labor shortages.

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“ATU Local 113 filed these applications in response to TTC management to unilaterally and illegally change the terms and conditions of employment,” Local 113 president Carlos Santos said in a statement to the Star.

He described the transit agency’s actions as “an insult to TTC workers” who have led Toronto during the pandemic, but said the dispute could be resolved “if the TTC is back on the table and in good faith”. talks.”

The TTC has yet to respond to the applications, and in a statement, spokesman Stuart Green said the agency could not comment on matters before the board.

“TTC’s position on our policy is clear. We believe this will ensure that our employees, their families, the wider Greater Toronto community and our customers are safe,” Green said. “It is indeed mysterious that (union) officials would oppose such fundamental common sense public health measures.”

The union is asking the board to announce that the TTC cannot enforce the vaccine mandate during the freeze, and that the agency must go back to the previous shift sign-up process.

David Dory, a professor of labor law at the University of York, said that at least on the face of it, “the union has a strong case.”

“If there was no agreement for (the vaccine mandate) by the union, the employer would need to explain to the Labor Board that it would always have a mandatory vaccination policy in place in case of a pandemic as part of its managerial rights. So the policy doesn’t amount to change at all,” Dore said in an email.

The TTC can also argue that the freeze should be waived in an emergency like a pandemic. “It will be interesting to see whether the Labor Board will consider such an argument,” Dore said.

Local 113 has opposed the TTC’s vaccination mandate since the agency’s CEO, Rick Leary, announced in August that transit workers would be required to get their shots. The union initially urged its members to refuse to disclose their vaccination status to the management, but backtracked after the TTC filed its application to the board last month.

The union has faced criticism from transit riders and its own members for its opposition to the mandate, and claims in its new filing that it is “not opposed to vaccination” but from “the TTC’s unilateral implementation of its policy”. is fighting.

As of Tuesday, about 85 percent of TTC employees had disclosed their vaccination status to management, and 90 percent of them were fully vaccinated. The TTC did not say what discipline it would impose on employees who do not get their shots.

Ben Spur is a Toronto-based reporter who covers transportation. Contact him by email at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter: @BenSpurr

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