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More than 300 YG employees placed on leave, union raises concerns

A total of 336 workers, most of them part time or casual, are on leave without pay.
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The Yukon Employees Union has raised concerns about the Yukon Government policy placing unvaccinated workers on unpaid leave. (Yukon Employees Union Image)

The union representing about 6,000 Yukon employees has publicized concerns with the vaccination mandate for government employees.

According to a report tabled in the Yukon legislature on December 2, 336 employees have not attested that they received the vaccine.

“As an Occupational Health and Safety measure, vaccination is our best choice. And while we support the goals of a mandate, we have serious reservations and concerns that have not been addressed in any meaningful way by Yukon government,” a Nov. 30 notice from the Yukon Employees’ Union (YEU) reads.

“YEU is categorically opposed to the idea that any worker should be placed on unpaid leave should they refuse to comply with the new terms and conditions of employment.”

The union also takes issue with the short notice they received the specifics of the vaccination mandate on. The notice says they weren’t provided with a copy until Nov. 30. The metadata on the document showed that it was signed fewer than 30 hours before the planned launch of the policy, the union said.

In addition, any Yukon government worker off on administrative leave without pay who shows up to work is subject to a $500 fine.

“Dedicated employees should not be put on administrative Leave Without Pay as the consequence of a policy finalized in haste, and without consultation. We maintain that YG has failed its workers with this mandate,” the notice reads.

The notice also says YEU and the Yukon Teachers’ Association have been seeking alternatives to placing workers on leave without pay, such as remote work, but the government has rejected their demands.

The union says they must support all of their members whether they are vaccinated or unvaccinated and opposed or unopposed to the mandate.

In the Nov. 30 notice, the union says the government’s decision to reimpose the state of emergency ahead of the vaccination mandate coming into effect was not benign.

“Many valuable Yukon workers will be off the job, either because they have not chosen to be vaccinated or because they have opted out of the formal attestation process. It’s clear that many of the public services we rely on will be impacted — some catastrophically, while experienced and dedicated public servants are forced to choose compliance or a wage.”

Minister John Streicker said the impact will be some pressure on certain departments, but not catastrophic – on Dec. 1 he told reporters that he was impressed by the number of employees who attested and said he was not aware of “disruptions.”

“I don’t know of service disruptions. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t any – again, I want to be careful here – I’m not trying to suggest that there aren’t pressures,” he said. “These numbers came in pretty low.”

Streicker compared the situation to the beginning of the pandemic when the public service had to cope with major interruptions to staffing. He said workplaces like schools and hospitals have business continuity plans to refer to in cases of absences.

According to the Public Service Commission, 117 full-time and 219 part-time or casual workers had not attested to receiving the vaccine by the deadline when the vaccination mandate came into effect. This amounts to a total of 5.5 per cent of the government workforce.

A breakdown of the numbers was provided by the public service commission. The department with the most employees on leave without pay is Health and Social Services with 122, 97 of them part-time or casual. The Department of Education has 63 employees on leave without pay and Highways and Public Works will be short 54 workers. The Department of Justice placed 23 employees on leave; the Department of Community Services, 15; and the Department of Tourism and Culture, 12. The workers on leave from all other government departments combined totaled 43 employees.

According to the report, 5,700 employees attested to having received the vaccine accounting for 93.8 per cent of all employees. Forty-one employees have applied for a religious or medical exemption. On Dec. 1, Streicker told reporters those exemptions are being processed.

Contact Jim Elliot at jim.elliot@yukon-news.com



Jim Elliot

About the Author: Jim Elliot

I’m a B.C. transplant here in Whitehorse at The News telling stories about the Yukon's people, environment, and culture.
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