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Thread: TTC union backs down, urges members to comply with vaccine mandate

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    Default TTC union backs down, urges members to comply with vaccine mandate

    This is what happens when a union listens to competent legal counsel...

    TTC union backs down, now urges members to comply with transit agency’s vaccine mandate
    Ben Spurr Transportation Reporter
    Wed., Sept. 29, 2021

    The TTC’s largest union has beat a sudden retreat in its fight against the transit agency’s vaccine mandate, and is now advising its members to disclose their inoculation status to management.

    The stunning reversal played out in a bizarre series of events Wednesday morning that featured the union president being a last minute no-show at a press conference with a former Ontario Progressive Conservative MPP who was ejected from caucus over his opposition to pandemic safety measures.

    Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113, which represents nearly 12,000 TTC workers, had taken a hard line against the transit agency’s vaccination mandate since it was announced Sept. 7. The union had urged members to defy management’s order to disclose their vaccination status, which the local claimed was private medical information.

    But in a message to members Wednesday morning, Local 113 president Carlos Santos called on the union and TTC CEO Rick Leary to “work together on a fair vaccination policy.”

    The statement still had harsh criticism for Leary, who Santos claimed had “created an unnecessary and unfortunate crisis” around the vaccine issue through his “failure of leadership.” But the union president asserted TTC leadership had heard members’ criticism “loud and clear” and it was time to co-operate.

    “Accordingly, myself and the Executive Board of ATU Local 113 are now asking … members comply with the vaccination status disclosure set out in the TTC’s policy,” Santos said.

    The climbdown came after the TTC filed an urgent application with the Ontario Labour Relations Board Tuesday afternoon claiming the union's directive for employees to not co-operate with the mandate amounted to an illegal strike that has resulted in “abysmally low” vaccine disclosure rates among employees.

    Union officials confirmed Local 113’s board made the decision to drop its opposition to disclosure at an emergency meeting Tuesday night called in response to the TTC’s application. A Local 113 spokesperson didn’t elaborate on why the union reversed course.

    But in an interview, John Di Nino, president of ATU Canada, Local 113’s parent organization, said the prospect of a drawn out fight at the labour board tipped the scales.

    Di Nino, whose national organization had left the door open to co-operating with management on vaccine mandates even as Local 113 resisted, said the labour board dispute would have drained union resources, and detracted from what he said would be a more productive strategy of trying to win accommodations for workers who don’t get jabbed. Local 113 has proposed employees who choose not to get vaccinated could instead be subject to regular COVID-19 testing.

    “The problem is here: are we going to get in a long-winded battle in labour relations over this particular part of it?” Di Nino said. “We think it’s in the organization’s best interest to focus on the bigger fight.”

    Local 113’s reversal was all the more abrupt because it came within minutes of an unusual press conference at Queen’s Park at which independent MPP Roman Baber (York Centre) announced the union had endorsed his so-called Jobs and Jabs Act. The private member’s bill would prohibit workers from being fired or placed on leave for refusing to get vaccinated or failing to disclose their vaccination status.

    In an advisory Baber circulated before the event, Santos was quoted as supporting the bill and listed as attending the press conference, but he didn’t show. Officials from two smaller transit unions representing TTC and Hamilton Street Railway employees did attend to support Baber’s legislation.

    Premier Doug Ford kicked Baber out of PC caucus in January after he wrote a letter to the premier claiming “the lockdown is deadlier than COVID.”

    Asked for clarification of Local 113’s position on the bill, Santos said in a statement that “ATU Local 113 supports the principle that people shouldn’t lose their job because of a personal medical choice. ATU Local 113 does not support any measures that oppose lockdowns or other public health measures to fight the pandemic.”

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