(For a link to the Q&A from the Town Hall event held October 13, 2021, please click here.)

On October 13 and 14, 2021 President Barbara Cape and Director of Contract Bargaining and Enforcement, Bob Laurie, answered members' questions about the SHA Proof of Vaccination Policy Directive. The Zoom meeting was recorded to ensure accuracy in responding to these questions. All participants were encouraged to put their question in the chat – and questions from members were gathered prior to the meeting…many with the same themes.

SEIU-West stated that the Union’s role was not to defend or explain the SHA policy. SEIU-West was not consulted and we continue to wait for answers on many of the same questions the members have been asking. We also are not here to debate the different science references or legal citations that members have gathered from other sources. We discussed the statement from the SEIU-West Executive Board on the SHA Proof of COVID Vaccination Policy. We shared on our website, and on screen, the memo that was issued from the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission (SHRC). We shared the SHRC statement that the Employer simply putting in place a policy doesn’t violate an individual’s human rights, provided there is a way to accommodate based on protected grounds, such as medical or religious exemptions.

The SEIU-West Executive Board continues to strongly encourage members to seek out advice from their family health care provider and get vaccinated.

COVID-19 Vaccination Self-Declaration form UPDATE: SEIU-West can now advise that members should use the following statement and send to the SHA if there is an issue with the pre-populated answer options not truthfully and correctly describing your intentions:

Date:

To Blake McMullen; [email protected] 

I have been advised by my Union to inform you I cannot truthfully and correctly complete the SHA Declaration of COVID-19 Vaccination Status because the Employer response options provided do not describe my intention.

Your Name

Save/keep a copy for your records. Do not send a copy to the Member Resource Center.

Q: I fully understand the unions position in assisting with accommodations related to the Proof of vaccination. However, will the union also stand by its vaccinated members when they refuse work on the grounds of unsafe work conditions? Ie. working along side unvaccinated members.

A: I appreciate your question; the issue of this pandemic and its impact on frontline staff has been an occupational health and mental health nightmare! The short answer is yes, we will continue to stand by our members. We will stand by our vaccinated members as well as those who are unvaccinated but managing their participation with the SHA (or other employers) policies in different ways. The employer has a requirement to provide a safe workplace; this policy from the SHA has been framed in part as an occupational health and safety initiative. But the policy also has impacts that provoke questions of human rights and privacy rights. We will ensure that we represent the whole membership, fairly and without bias.

Q: Where is the legal proof of laws to JUSTIFY the employer’s demands of forced vaccinations and or PCR testing (as there is no LAW requiring vaccinations or testing be mandatory in legislation, acts or laws, as they are a medical procedure)? No other act, order or policy supersedes law.

A: The law that allows the employer to introduce policies is the Saskatchewan Employment Act. The policy they have introduced is a Proof of Vaccination policy. Neither the proof of vaccination nor the testing meet the definition of a medical procedure.

Q: Has there been a thorough JOB ANALYSIS done to make mandatory testing a bona fide occupational requirement (BFOR)?

A: We are not aware of the SHA has done an assessment of bona fide job requirement for this policy, but we aren’t sure that it is required as it’s a policy that is applicable to all staff.

Q: Filling out the declaration, whether you are vaccinated or unvaccinated by choosing the exemption, one is being asked for their private medical health information which is a VIOLATION of the Privacy Act.

A: In reviewing advice from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, the employer can indeed introduce this policy and not be in violation of privacy legislation provided that they communicate how the information will be stored in a confidential manner; limit access to only those who must see the information; and destroy the information after it is no longer needed

Q: The threat of disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment for not complying with their policy directive because of its basis on unlawful stipulations is COERCION and punishable under the Criminal Code.

A: The SHA is requiring people to comply with this policy in much the same fashion as other policies – non-compliance is subject to progressive discipline. We aren’t commenting on the question of criminal code issues, but we agree that the way this is being implemented is not collegial

Q: Mandatory testing of only a certain identifiable group of people is DISCRIMINATORY as it is a well-known fact that everybody can be infected with SARS CoV-2 and can transmit it if infected. This discriminatory bias is meant to punish a particular group, to put undue hardship on them and to continue singling out healthy people as a problem. It is psychological HARASSMENT and is a violation of established workplace policy. These are violations also of the CBA Articles 4.01 and 4.02.

A: Participating in the monitored testing program doesn’t meet the standard of discrimination because it’s offered as an alternative to providing proof of vaccination. Discrimination is a legal term and is based on the protected status that the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission has laid out in their memo on our website.

Q: The mandatory testing if done on the employees’ cost and personal time is designed to make the performance of one’s ordinary work duties increasingly OPPRESSIVE AND UNSUSTAINABLE. It reaches a point where one could argue that it constitutes a BREACH OF CONTRACT. Enforcing this policy then is meant to coerce an employee to vaccination which is tantamount to making it mandatory. 

A: We have identified many of the same concerns as our members about the vagueness of the details (if any) provided by SHA with regard to the mandatory testing program: lack of details regarding access; pricing; frequency have all created a number of concerns for all of us. We are continuing to follow up with SHA on these questions. As well, SEIU-West, CUPE and SGEU have all requested that the SHA provide the testing to our members.

Q: If ALL employees are subjected to PCR testing, all acceptable specimens should be an option for testing including the less invasive spit gargle or sputum samples.  The frequent use of the nasopharyngeal swab sterilized with Ethylene Oxide can potentially cause harm.  Will the employer accept the liability for any immediate and future harm to an employee for being subjected to such frequent medical procedure?  Based on the ethics of INFORMED CONSENT, all risks should be made available no matter how small or unlikely.  If the only choice for an acceptable sample for PCR testing is the nasopharyngeal swab, what happens to an employee who exercises their right not to give their INFORMED CONSENT to the medical procedure?  This is also supported by CBA article 23.03 (c) An employee has the right to refuse to perform any particular act or series of acts if he/she has reasonable grounds to believe that the acts or series of acts is unusually dangerous to his/her health or safety.

And as The Canadian Constitutional Act states: 52 (1) The Constitution of Canada is the supreme law of Canada, and any law that is inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution is, to the extent of the inconsistency, of no force or effect. —Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. 

Every Canadian has a legal right to life, liberty and security of the person (Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom Section 7).  The security of a person can lie in one's ability to earn a living.  Violating this right by terminating an employee based on unlawful requests by the employer is a violation against the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom.

This is a pivotal time in the history of healthcare and of all the people of Canada. This is an opportunity for the SEIU West to stand up against these unlawful requests by the employer. May it be written in history that SEIU West did the right thing and fought for and upheld the legal rights of not only its members but of ALL Canadians. Note: these template questions were asked by a few members, but the response is only repeated here once.

Q: Are both vaccinated and unvaccinated going to be required to test? If not, how is that not discrimination? We all know that fully vaccinated individuals can acquire and transmit the virus. 2. Do I have to fill out the self declaration form when I don't even know what I'm agreeing to? I have no information as to cost of the test, nor frequency of testing! I do not feel comfortable signing anything that doesn't have all of the information.

A: As part of the SHA proof of vaccination policy, those who decline to show proof of vaccination will be required to test in the monitored testing program. However, if a person is vaccinated and exhibiting symptoms, they should still call 811 and get tested.  Also, those who are accommodated will need to still be tested/monitored in some fashion. Our advice on the declaration remains the same: comply with the requirement. If you are unable to complete the form because your answer would be incorrect or dishonest, we ask that you send the email above (in red) to the SHA. Your concerns about frequency and access are concerns that we share as well.  the implementation process on this policy has been hugely problematic.

Q: 1 How do we fill out the declaration without being properly informed and what if we wait to fill it out until such time as we are properly informed? If we don’t sign will we be putting our jobs in danger but if we do sign then we will be held accountable as we signed a legal and binding document. Where does testing take place, why were the home tests good enough until now, how much is it going to cost, how often will we have to test, how long do they project we will have to test, how often do we have to test. There are so many questions left unanswered. 2 What if this causes undue hardship for us as employees to have to pay for testing just because we choose not to be vaccinated at this time. 3 They are no longer testing asymptomatic people so why test if we are asymptomatic 4 If everyone, vaccinated or not, can spread it then why does everyone not have to be tested – this is very discriminatory.

A: We are sharing your concerns with lack of information and clarity on the declaration forms and we’re following up with SHA on these questions. The cost is a question that we are seeking clarity on as well, including what does that $225/month cover? On the question of testing, those who are vaccinated will continue to be tested if they exhibit symptoms. The SHA has identified that those who are vaccinated can get COVID, but as a general rule, their symptoms are less severe and there is less likelihood of transmission.

Q: I do not want to sign the Declaration of Covid 19 Vaccination Status. I do not feel comfortable signing the form. It is not clear what it all entails and I am being coerced in doing so. This is not right. Can you help me navigate this challenging situation?

A: We are encouraging our members to contact the SHA with the statement above in red. SEIU-West is following up with specific questions regarding the policy and will update our membership accordingly.

Q: I have a question if we dont disclose or status or test they are putting us on unpaid leave. I am a contract worker can they do this? Do they not have to pay me? The attitude is extremely intimidating do this or else basically. My medical info is it not private and protected by doc patient privilege? I feel this is wrong forcing someone to do something for a job. Any insight would be greatly appreciated

A: One of the options identified by the SHA is putting those who don’t comply with the policy on unpaid leave, and no, you would not be paid. As a contract worker, you are also required to follow the policies of the SHA. The goal is to get people vaccinated, as stated by the SHA.

Your medical information is protected, however, the advice from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner is that the employer can introduce a proof of vaccination policy provided they identify how they will keep your information confidential; limit access to that information; and identify how they will securely destroy that information once it is no longer needed.

Q: How can SEIU-West stand behind said-vaccine for the COVID-19 and the Employer COVID-19 Vaccination Policies? There is NO longterm effects known on these said-vaccines. And sadly, one doesn’t even know the effects on the people who have succumbed to 1 and/or 2 said-vaccine and potentially many many more said-vaccines/boosters, either voluntarily or through coercion. #2. Where is option 5?? on the Declaration of COVID-19 Vaccination Status for those that do not consent and HOW is SEIU-West going to support us? Where is the direction from OUR UNION? Where is the option for those whom do not consent to the unknown said-vaccineS, do not consent to the testing with unknown safety and accuracy, do not consent to releasing to whomever OUR personal and private health information? [“The SHA will collect, and review evidence provided by you in relation to your vaccination status. Access to identifiable information is limited to those who need to know for the purposes of administering the policy directive. The SHA will be storing the information provided on a SHA independent, stand-alone, secured server. Reports generated with vaccination data that are shared with the Ministry of Health and other partners do not contain any personal data.”] #3. How can we declare ANYTHING without all the policy information? How many more said-vaccines will keep being recommended and recommended to be deemed fully vaccinated? How often is the testing? How can we even select to participate in the monitored testing process at our OWN expense when WE do NOT have the information?!? How come one cannot declare creed which is directly inline with morals and values for accommodation? This is discriminatory. #4 It is also discriminatory that only the without said-vaccine are the ones to be tested as ALL can carry and spread. #5 Also discriminatory is any close-contact at work in the workplace for those without said-vaccine will be put off work unpaid, however not those with the said-vaccine. Sadly the rules (goal posts) keep changing daily and make absolutely no sense. There are so many unknowns that it extremely concerns me that SEIU -West can support any of this. Give me some direction as I AM NOT CONSENTING with what is before US ”

A: SEIU-West isn’t standing behind the employer’s policy, we are clearly stating what our research and the legal precedents are that govern our work. We have set out that the legal opinion is that an employer can introduce such a policy as proof of vaccinations.

We are not commenting on the science or legal advice that people have gathered from other sources. If you feel that by completing the SHA declaration that you would not be able to do so truthfully, then we have advised our members to send the above noted statement in red. SEIU-West will represent our membership regardless of their vaccination status.

We agree that this policy’s roll-out has not provided enough clarity or information for members to understand the impact of the policy. As mentioned in previous responses, we are continuing to follow up on questions around access; frequency of testing; and clarity about the confidentiality and security of members’ vaccination status.

In the advice provided by the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission, having a personal preference or opinion about the policy doesn’t equate to a protected status for accommodation under the legislation.

Q: I still have quite with the Declaration we are supposed to fill out by the 15th, it doesn’t say how much the test or what will happen or if they will pay for it or anything, is there not a way you can help us ? Since Dr’s can’t give out accommodations this isn’t even fair Please fight for us because I am not the only one and my co workers are scare of loosing their jobs or being permanent damages from the vaccination, this is crazy Thanks everyone is getting desperate.

A: Subsequent to the townhall meetings, on October 14, SHA identified that the cost for the monitored testing program was $225/month. SEIU-West, CUPE and SGEU have written to the SHA to recommend that the testing be provided by the employer.

Doctor’s can indeed provide objective medical to support a medical accommodation, but if you do not have grounds for an accomodation, they will not provide it to you.

We are not aware of permanent damage from the vaccines.

Q: If placed on Administrative leave, how will this affect my pension? Will I have option to make payments to pension, so not to lose out at retirement.

A: We don’t have ‘administrative leave’ in our collective agreement. If placed on an unpaid leave of absence, you would not be paid and so it would indeed affect your pension contributions.

You can request to pay both your and the employer’s portion of pension contributions, but this would be subject to the terms of SHEPP

Q: Article 19 in the SEIU-West union book, 19.09-reimbursement of expenses. The employer shall be reimbursed for all substantiated expenses incurred while performing required duties on behalf of the employer. This should pretain to the testing costs, should it not?

A: Unfortunately, this article would not apply because it references performing the required duties of your job – specifically the tasks in your job description. Compliance with the policy by way of the monitored testing program wouldn’t fit within that definition.

Q: My question is if I fill the declaration form out is it saying that I have no problem Paying to get tested? Because that is the problem I can’t afford to pay to get tested but I am not getting the vaccine. And why all our ppe, etc is paid for but not this?

A: I believe the form is asking you to declare whether you intend to participate in this policy by showing proof of vaccination or the monitored testing program. Or, if you are going to be seeking a medical or religious exemption and be accommodated.

COVID-19 Vaccination Self-Declaration form UPDATE: SEIU-West can now advise that members should use the following statement and send to the SHA if there is an issue with the pre-populated answer options not truthfully and correctly describing your intentions:

Date:

To Blake McMullen; [email protected] 

I have been advised by my Union to inform you I cannot truthfully and correctly complete the SHA Declaration of COVID-19 Vaccination Status because the Employer response options provided do not describe my intention.

Your Name

Save/keep a copy for your records. Do not send a copy to the Member Resource Center.

Q: As they decides email the cost of testing as $225 a month, what does an employee do now? That is a huge chunk of money to go towards something that has been handed out freely for the past 19 months. For 19 months we were front line workers who were thanked for the hard work we do, and now because we question what is going on we are treated like disgusting, virus ridden humans? For 19 months I watched covid swabs come in troves, symptomatic and asymptomatic. Now we are not able to take advantage our our health care system and got free testing? Are you still trying for free testing? I am not signing the declaration as I feel like to test would be an enormous pay cut to myself and husband who works in the region. But we can not loose our jobs as we need to feed and house our kids. There is no winning with this. If we get the vaccine that would be going against what we want. It would be putting something in my body to keep my job that I love and do mot want to loose. But we can not afford to test.... What do we do? Simply but....what do we do?”

A: The question of affordability is one that we will raise with the SHA. In the past when we have asked about cost, the SHA has reminded us that the vaccine is free. This direction is from Premier Scott Moe to get more people vaccinated – that appears to be the driving motivation here that the government and the SHA have been quite direct on.

SEIU-West cannot answer these questions for you – that is up to you to decide. The Public Health Agency of Canada has endorsed and recommended the vaccines; the governments across Canada of all political stripes have endorsed the vaccines; and SEIU-West recommends that our members get vaccinated.  We would encourage you to talk with your family doctor and make the decision to get vaccinated.

Q: Hi, can the $225 testing fee be changed according to our wages? Is the testing to take place at our homebase or do we have to travel to a city? How long is this mandate in place for?

A: We’ll follow up on these questions with the SHA re: adjustment based on wage…however, I don’t think they’ll make that modification. We don’t have an end date in sight. Because it’s a ‘policy directive’ it is temporary  and is usually in effect for no more than 1 year and can be ended whenever it is determined to no longer be needed.

Q: part-time employees working one week on, one week off, confirmation required that testing is not required during the week off. If an employee is self-paying, will the rate charged ($225 per month) be pro-rated? - what proof needs to be provided for religious exemption? - if you had covid, is natural immunity recognized in anyway? - if you had covid, inquiry of the validity of testing meaning is it true that you will test positive for covid for 3 months following diagnosis? How will this be tracked in regard to testing? ”

A: We’ll follow up on the question around pro-rating.

You’ll need to get clarity from the SHA regarding specifically what they will require for a religious exemption, however it is usually a letter from your place of worship indicating a long-held belief of the faith.

Natural immunity is not being taken into account.

The validity of the testing is a question I recommend that you ask the SHA.

Q: I think 2014 SHA tried to make the flu vaccine mandatory, what was the unions thoughts when they were trying to do this? Were you for it or against it? If you were against it, how is this mandate any different?

A: There are several differences: the flu vaccine doesn’t have the scientifically stated efficacy of the current vaccines for COVID-19; the flu isn’t a global pandemic – COVID-19 is; the Government of Saskatchewan has given the legal authority for employers’ to introduce these policies.

Immunize or Mask Policy was voluntary, not mandatory. Repealed in 2015.

Q: What happens if I don't sign the declaration? SHA sent out in daily brief that $225. will be deducted from paycheck for testing.

A: We are recommending that members respond with the message to SHA set out in red at the top of this post. If you don’t comply, the employer has stated that they will put people off work on an unpaid leave of absence.

Q: How does the union protect us from discrimination? Forcing one group of people to undergo regular covid testing and not another group, is nothing short of discrimination especially when both groups are equally susceptible to contracting and transmitting covid.

A: The SHA policy is providing options to comply with the policy: show proof of vaccination or agree to participate in the monitored testing program. The policy is also allowing for an accommodation based on protected grounds.

This doesn’t meet the definition of discrimination under the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code because they are considering the need for a medical or religious exemption. A personal opinion about vaccines doesn’t meet the test for an argument under the legislation for discrimination.

The science that the SHA has shared outlines that while vaccinated people can get COVID-19, the likelihood is that is will be less severe than those who are unvaccinated and less likely to spread to others.

Q: A flat $225 per month, no frequency indicated of testing. This is undue hardship at top wage. What about part time and casual?

A: We are following up on the questions of frequency and whether it is pro-rated for those who are part-time and casual.

Q: Since this is a direct gov mandate (and not a proxy bullying tactic like all previous) this actually falls within the Charter.

A: The mandate from government is to develop a proof of vaccination policy.

The question of constitutional rights is not as black and white as people think. Section 1 of the Cdn Charter of Rights and Freedoms sets out the following: “The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only such reasonable limits as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.” The challenge here is that there is an argument to be made that in the middle of a global pandemic, all rights are not absolute.

Hea: We are not new hires, so wouldn't them creating new "rules" be a break to the contract?

A: The CBA allows employers to establish policies. Unless there is a violation of our collective agreement, there isn’t a ‘break’ to the contract.

Q: 1. How often is the testing to be done? 2. How long is the testing going to be for? What happens if someone tests positive? How will testing be handled then?

A: We’ll follow up on these questions with SHA and report back to the membership. We have asked many of these questions previously but the response has been “We’ll get back to you.”

Q: using this policy to encourage vaccination and threatening our employment and income is not coercion or a threat?

A: According to the advice from the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner and previous arbitration decisions, the short answer is no. Options for compliance need to be made available. Policies must be reasonable; communicated clearly; and applied evenly throughout the membership. We may not like how they are implementing this and have a lot of questions, but a personal choice or opinion doesn’t make this coercion.

Q: Are you fighting for the cost because now they are saying 225 a month

A: We are still requesting that the employer provide the tests and are following up on a number of questions now that the cost has been announced.

Q: Since the SHA is requesting regular testing if the employee chooses to not vaccinate, why is SHA not paying for/supplying the tests?? Why should the cost be the employee's responsibility?

A: Ultimately, the goal for the SHA is to get all staff vaccinated if they are not accommodated. While some employers are currently offering to pay for the tests, not all policies have to be the same.

Q: What can we do about workplace harassment, bullying, and discrimination?

A: This should be reported via the Occupational Health and Safety reporting mechanisms. Whether it’s the ‘1600 report line’ or a written form for the local OHS committee. We need to remember that this is the SHA’s policy and not attack each other. If you feel comfortable to encourage someone to get vaccinated, please do so. But the enforcement of the SHA policy is for management to manage – we must remember to be respectful of each other.

Q: Reports generated with vaccination data that are shared with the Ministry of Health and other partners. WHO I want to know are these other partners???

A: We’ll follow up with the SHA on this question and report back to the membership.

Q: Some rural sites do not have rapid testing and employees will have to travel long distances for example employees in Eastend will have to travel to SC they will also need to take days off to accomdate will the union help gat costs covered

Access and frequency are high on the list of follow up questions we have for the SHA. SEIU-West, CUPE and SGEU want the employer to provide this testing, preferably in the facility.

Q: Do you have to declare if you are maternity leave, sick leave, not currently working? etc? Also, why is natural immunity not considered? Isn’t the vaccination made to mimic nature?

A: We are following up on the requirement for those who are currently on a leave or when people take vacation and the requirements for the testing program. Natural immunity is not being considered by the SHA.

Q: The employer is saying a lot of things like natural immunity is not as strong as vaccination and many other items we have brought forward. Can we get the actual proof from the employer to show us where they are getting this data which does not coincide with what the FDA, WHO and CDC

A: We’ll recommend that the employer share the scientific data they are relying on, including updating this as the science evolves. I believe that this was shared in the Daily Rounds in late September, but we’ll follow up with the employer.

Q: If placed on Admin leave will it be an approved leave or non-approved leave by the employer?

A: SEIU-West doesn’t have ‘Administrative leave’ in our collective agreement. This would likely be an unpaid leave of absence.

Q: can/will the union continue to assist that we aren't required to get a 2nd Vax, as I received 1st Vax today to avoid unpaid leave in the future.

A: We encourage all members to get vaccinated – talk with your family doctor and get both vaccinations.

Thanks to everyone for participating in the townhalls. We will continue to provide advice to our members as this issue evolves and changes.  Our Member Resource Center is currently inundated with member calls and messages, so we ask for your patience as we continue to answer your questions.  We will respond in the order that we’ve received them. We thank you for remaining respectful as we work through these issues together.

Respectfully,

Barbara Cape

President SEIU-West

Take action

Calendar
Virtual Bulletin Board
Contact

Connect with us