The internal battle over the TTC’s vaccine mandate escalated Tuesday when the transit agency formally accused its largest union of engaging in illegal job action by opposing the policy and causing “extremely low” compliance rates among employees.
Received more in an application filed with the Ontario Labor Relations Board on Tuesday afternoon By Star, TTC claims that the amalgamated transit union Local 113, which represents about 12,000 transit agency employees, is violating labor laws by instructing its members not to share vaccination status with management.
Employee Verifying Your Status Is the First Step TTC was introduced on 7 September in the vaccine mandate, which requires all workers and contractors to be fully vaccinated by 30 October.
The union’s directive is illegal and “interferes with TTC’s ability to safely operate and manage the public transportation system,” claims the application, which has not been tested on board.
A spokesman for Local 113 said the union was unable to respond to the Star’s request for comment Tuesday evening. But in an earlier statement, local 113 president Carlos Santos defended the union’s opposition to the vaccine mandate.
“ATU Local 113 supports vaccinations for all members who choose to receive them. The real issue is (TTC CEO) Rick Leary and TTC Management’s failure to properly consult our union on policy, to assess the policy. Failure to provide adequate information and failure to earn the trust of our members,” he said.
The TTC policy originally required workers to disclose their vaccination status by September 20. But Local 113 has urged members not to share their position on the grounds that it is “confidential personal health information” that management has no right to ask.
Only 38 percent of employees had confirmed their status the day before the initial September 20 deadline, and last week the TTC extended the due date to Thursday, September 30. With only a few hours to go before the new deadline, the latest figures provided by the agency revealed only 56 percent of employees.
“It is clear that the refusal of ATU members to disclose their vaccination status to the TTC is a direct result of the ATU’s instructions,” the TTC said in its application. “This illegal job is a call for action that has resulted in extremely low disclosure rates by ATU members.”
The application claims that a union directive is a form of strike, as defined by the Ontario Labor Relations Act, which can include “consolidated activity on the part of employees designed to restrict or limit production.” The agency says the union’s actions violate its collective agreement as well as the Labor Relations Act and provincial law that designates the transit agency an essential service and prohibits its workers from striking.
Among other measures, the TTC is asking the board for a declaration that members who refuse to disclose their status have engaged in an illegal job action, and an order directing union leaders to That they ask the workers to follow the mandate. The agency says its application is urgent, and has asked for an early hearing.
Alison Breely-Ratai, assistant professor of labor studies at Brock University, said in her view it is “a huge stretch” for the TTC to claim the union action amounted to an unlawful strike.
“Indeed, this action is the only way to restrict output if TTC begins to remove employees from work assignments as a response. Although it may be a reasonable thing for TTC to manage operations safely It seems superfluous to say that it should be captured by the definition of strike activity,” she said.
But she noted that the logic in the TTC application differs from the issue of whether TTC’s vaccination policy is legal. She said that on that count, the union is unsustainable by claiming privileged information on the vaccine status of employees.
“It is entirely reasonable and in itself (for management) to require the disclosure of otherwise private information, so long as it is to meet very specific ends, as long as those ends are clearly legitimate ends.” ,” He said.
The TTC announced in August that it intended to make vaccines mandatory for its employees, a decision made public shortly after the city unveiled similar plans for its 30,000 workers. The TTC is a municipal agency but its workforce is governed by a separate collective agreement.
According to TTC policy, transit workers who do not disclose their status by the deadline must undergo compulsory education about the benefits of receiving the shot. Limited exceptions will be made on human rights grounds, but full vaccination is “a precondition for employment.”
TTC says that based on vaccination rates in the wider community and the low number of new cases among its employees, most of its employees have already stopped. According to the transit agency, of the TTC employees who disclosed, 92 percent said they had been fully vaccinated, and 8 percent had received a shot.
Other Toronto public sector employees have cooperated with vaccine disclosure requirements at much higher rates than transit employees. over 87 percent city of toronto workers confirmed whether they had received a shot, and reported over 80 percent of Toronto police, whose union also opposes their employers’ vaccine rules.
Provincial transit agency Metrolinx says 93 percent of its employees have complied with its disclosure requirements.