Ottawa: Labour laws and the challenges faced by union members were a specific focus of the Final Report of the four independent Commissioners of the National Citizens Inquiry into Canada’s response to COVID-19.
The Commission heard evidence that thousands of unionized employees across the country lost their jobs or were put on unpaid leave as a result of the vaccine mandates. Union members had an even harder time fighting this than non-unionized employees, because under the law they cannot bring direct actions against their employer in court and instead must rely on their union to fight for them.
The Commission heard that many unions failed to advocate for their members in defence of the vaccine mandates. Some unions told employees that they must comply with the mandate if they were unable to qualify for an exemption. The Commission heard that one union refused to fight for its member because it had received a legal opinion supporting the employer’s right to impose a mandate.
The result is that for a large number of Canadian unionized employees, there was no ability to have a court adjudicate on the applicability of mandates nor to consider the safety of the vaccines being imposed.
The following related recommendations are among several made by the Commissioners:
- The Commission recommends that legislation be adopted to include ensuring the protection of union members where the member asserts
- that Charter rights have been violated as a result of actions of the employer or the union;
- a grievance against his or her employer that the union fails to, or refuses to, defend.
- The government should review labour laws to ensure that they provide adequate protection to both unionized and non-unionized employees during health emergencies like the pandemic. This should include mechanisms for addressing workplace issues related to mandates and safety concerns.
- Establish mediation or dispute resolution mechanisms specifically tailored to labour disputes arising from health emergencies. This can provide a more efficient and cost-effective way to address employer / employee issues than lengthy court battles. Reasons for decisions must be made public.
- Consider launching a public inquiry into the specific challenges faced by unionized employees during the pandemic. This can help identify systemic issues and inform policy changes.
Digital copies of the Report are available at https://nationalcitizensinquiry.ca/commissioners-report. Media inquiries concerning the National Citizens Inquiry should be directed to: