No Back Pay for Civil Servants on Unpaid Leave for Refusing COVID-19 Vaccine, Say Feds

by EditorK

Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Infrastructure and Communities Dominic LeBlanc speaks during a press conference in Ottawa, Canada on October 26, 2021. (Photo by LARS HAGBERG/AFP via Getty Images)

By Lee Harding

Civil servants who refused vaccination for COVID-19 will not be compensated for months of unpaid leave, the federal government has said.

On June 14, the government announced it would suspend its vaccine requirements for travel and federal workplaces but would reinstate them later if necessary. According to the new rules, unvaccinated RCMP members and civil servants who faced an October 6, 2021 deadline for vaccination, could be back on the job on June 20.

About 1,828 federal workers were put on leave due to their vaccination status, according to numbers shared with unions by the Treasury Board Secretariat in March, reported the National Post.

Despite union demands that they receive back pay, Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc told reporters on Parliament Hill on June 15 that the government would “absolutely not” do so. Justice Minister David Lametti added he was confident the mandate rules were on “solid legal footing,” according to the Globe and Mail.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), the country’s biggest public-sector union, said in a June 14 statement that placing unvaccinated remote workers on leave without pay “constituted an abuse of management authority” by the government because the workers “posed no threat to the health and safety of their workplaces.”

“Now that the government has lifted its vaccination policy, we expect members who were unfairly impacted to be compensated,” said PSAC National President Chris Aylward in the statement.

Last October, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), the country’s biggest public-sector union, warned members there was a “strong possibility” that vaccine mandates would stand up in court. During last year’s federal election campaign, the union said it supported vaccination but thought those who refused it should not receive discipline.

PSAC, the Canadian Association of Professional Employees (CAPE), and the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) filed grievances in May against the government over its mandate policy.

CAPE president Greg Phillips told the Post he was “disappointed” that LeBlanc would refuse to consider reimbursing public servants.

“CAPE has filed several individual grievances for employees put on leave without pay due to the mandatory vaccination mandate, and we will seek reimbursement of their lost salary, wherever possible,” Phillips said.

“We are disappointed to hear of minister’s Leblanc comment, nonetheless we will pursue this matter before the Federal Public Section Labour Relations and Employment Board to obtain a decision.”

A statement released by PIPSC expressed “disappointment” that it was made aware of the government’s decision only through the media, despite asking for updates for weeks, but called the decision a “welcome update.”

“This is a welcome update from the employer as we have been pushing for this policy to reflect the current status of the pandemic,” said the June 14 statement.

“PIPSC filed policy grievances in May 2022 against the Mandatory Vaccination Policy for all members who remain on LWOP beyond April 6, 2022. Those grievances remain in effect until we have further details.”

The news comes as PSAC and the federal government have hit an impasse in contract negotiations. Annual inflation was estimated at 6.8 percent in April, so PSAC has rejected the federal proposal for a cost of living pay increase of 1.7 percent annually for three years. PSAC wants a more realistic figure, plus a 4.5 percent increase in salaries.

On June 15, former Conservative leader Erin O’Toole said on Twitter that the vaccine mandates were “one of the most divisive and politically-motivated federal policy actions in Canadian history.”

O’Toole also said in a series of tweets that the mandates “undermined public confidence in our institutions.”

“The duty to accommodate in a workplace is established law & was ignored. No attempt to accommodate was made despite a civil service working from home. Unions will likely succeed in demands for retroactive pay for people impacted,” he said.

Lee Harding is a journalist and think tank researcher based in Saskatchewan, and a contributor to The Epoch Times.

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