On August 31, Alberta Health Services announced it is implementing a policy of requiring full COVID-19 vaccination for all employees, contractors and others working in AHS facilities, effective October 31, 2021.
As the union for Direct Nursing staff employed by AHS and other employers party to the Provincial Collective Agreement, United Nurses of Alberta believes the question of mandatory vaccination is not a labour relations question or a political question. It is a public health policy question that needs to be determined by public health experts. It should not be determined by an employer or a union, nor should it be an item of negotiation between employers and unions.
It appears that the Chief Medical Officer of Health is unwilling or unable to make such a determination. But unlike most employers, AHS has a number of Medical Officers of Health. They should make that order as a Medical Officer of Health, not as an employer. If such an order is made, the employer and the union should then work out how it is to be implemented.
AHS has indicated in its August 31 memorandum to employees that “any AHS employee who is unable to be immunized due to a medical reason, or for another protected ground under the Alberta Human Rights Act, will be reasonably accommodated up to the point of undue hardship and in accordance with the AHS Workplace Accommodation Policy. Any AHS member of the medical or midwifery staff who is unable to be immunized due to a medical reason may request an exemption to this Policy.”
Members who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons or other protected grounds need be accommodated by their employer. UNA will represent our members to ensure this happens.
To date, AHS has not provided us with their proposed policy, but has only provided copies of their media release and an email to employees. We have requested they provide us with the policy, so that we can determine the best path forward. We will update members as more information becomes available.
UNA urges all members not restricted by medical conditions or religious beliefs to arrange to be fully vaccinated as quickly as possible.