Sisters and Brothers,
Since this pandemic began, the top priority of ATU Local 113 has been the health and safety of our members. Unfortunately, we have not seen the same approach taken by the TTC. At a time when the TTC needed strong leadership, TTC CEO Rick Leary has failed repeatedly to share vital information and negotiate in good faith with us. ATU Local 113 believes in working together to address the many challenges transit in Toronto is facing. Sadly, on a range of issues, including vaccination, Mr. Leary has shown us that he does not feel the same.
In recent weeks, ATU Local 113 members have judged Mr. Leary and his approach, and they have sent a strong message that he has failed. Their actions show their lack of trust in the approach of Mr. Leary and the TTC.
That message has now been heard loud and clear by Leary and the TTC. Accordingly, myself and the Executive Board of ATU Local 113 are now asking that on or before September 30th, 2021, members comply with the vaccination status disclosure set out in the TTC’s policy.
Throughout the pandemic, ATU Local 113 has had to push management to take public health seriously. From reducing crowding on buses to allowing drivers to wear masks, Leary has consistently resisted doing the right thing until it was forced on him. ATU Local 113 was right on bus crowding, Leary was wrong. ATU Local 113 was right on masking. Leary was wrong. Transit properties across Canada have been able to serve the public while protecting its workers – Leary and the TTC have been slow and confrontational at every turn.
In the case of vaccination policy, Leary’s failure of leadership created an unnecessary and unfortunate crisis. Other transit agencies navigated this issue thoughtfully and reasonably. We have offered reasonable solutions, but management have never offered anything except the most punishing policy possible – designed to threaten and frighten our members.
In recent weeks, ATU Local 113 has tried to present options to the TTC and renew dialogue. We proposed that the TTC implement policies like those being adopted in Hamilton, Mississauga and Brampton, where workers have an option for regular testing. Instead of providing a counterproposal, management took the issue to the Labour Relations Board.
I believe that every individual has the inherent right to determine their own medical treatment. This is reflected in the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Health Care Consent Act and protected by the Charter. I also believe that we have a responsibility to support and protect each other and to the public – and to work together to resolve conflict.
The reality is that most of our members are vaccinated but are also deeply concerned that their employer is seeking to force workers to undergo a medical procedure under duress.
For other members, the decision not to vaccinate relates to their membership in a group which has legitimate social and historical reasons for distrusting the Canadian medical system. Their choices are complicated by colonialism, racism, and other broader socio-economical forces which simply cannot be resolved in the short window for disclosure provided under Leary’s policy.
For others still, decisions about vaccination are deeply connected to their personal and religious belief systems. These members have never before been asked to disavow important beliefs in order to maintain employment.
The TTC has admitted that they must defend their policy in the grievance arbitration process. We have filed a grievance to make sure members’ rights are respected and will work to resolve this as quickly as possible.
For our members on the frontlines of this pandemic, the last 18 months have often been chilling. Those members deserve respect, information and fairness from their employer. I believe these issues can be resolved through open, honest dialogue.
I call upon the TTC to abandon their strategy of confrontation and work collaboratively with us to find solutions that work for our members and work for Toronto.
President, ATU Local 113