The minister in charge of the government’s vaccine mandate said deadlines are being reviewed and consequences for unvaccinated public servants being considered after a meeting with Yukon unions.
“The plan, as we laid it out, still has some details to be worked out,” said John Streicker, following question period in the legislature.
“I can say that we’ve not talked about firing anybody. What we have talked about is making sure that people are safe in the workplace.”
The vaccine mandate was first announced on Oct. 15. The government did not specify what would happen to unvaccinated workers past the Nov. 30 deadline.
Streicker said “leave without pay,” rather than dismissal, is the farthest action against unvaccinated employees that the government is considering.
Streicker’s comments follow a meeting with YEU President Steve Geick on Oct. 20. The Yukon Employees’ Union has said they support a vaccine mandate, but do not believe that employees should face disciplinary action for refusing.
Last week the union filed a policy grievance, stating that by “failing to engage in consultations, failing to consider less invasive alternatives and by failing to consider all important aspects of implementing such a term and condition of employment” the government had breached the collective agreement.
Union grievances follow a prescribed arbitration/adjudication process to get resolved. During that time, employees are expected to follow directions from the employer.
The union has called for accommodations, rather than disciplinary action, including the ability for unvaccinated employees to work from home, be provided with rapid tests or extra personal protective equipment.
Streicker said those options are all being discussed with the Acting Chief Medical Officer of Health.
“That decision will be ours to make, ultimately,” he said, adding that the government has always followed advice from the CMOH office and the government will take laws and the actions of other jurisdictions into account when making a decision.
According to a letter between the minister and YEU officials, an update from the CMOH on “about all proposed strategies in support of public health regarding those employees who are not vaccinated” is expected Oct. 29.
He also said the Nov. 30 deadline may be reconsidered, based on the latest information from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization. The original timeline gave unvaccinated employees six weeks to meet the deadline.
NACI recommends a 21- to 28-day wait between the two doses of the Moderna vaccine in ideal circumstances, but recently shared evidence that a longer wait time could result in stronger immunity.
Opposition leader Currie Dixon said the grievance being filed indicates a lack of planning.
“That lack of information, that lack of planning, and the lack of willingness to work with YEU on this very important issue has caused a lot of people to be very concerned,” he said.
NDP leader Kate White echoed his concerns. She has also called for the government to reintroduce the mandatory mask order.
“What we’re seeing is the challenges of what happens when things aren’t communicating clearly,” she said. “Ultimately it’s about keeping people safe.”
Contact Haley Ritchie at firstname.lastname@example.org