Arbitrator orders Stellantis to finish vaccine mandate in Canada

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Chrysler and Dodge maker Stellantis NV should finish its COVID-19 vaccine mandate for Canadian staff after an arbitrator decided the coverage is now unreasonable due to waning efficacy towards the omicron variant.

The determination issued Saturday has the potential to have an effect on greater than 300 staff who’ve been positioned on unpaid go away since January for being unvaccinated or declining to reveal their vaccination standing, in line with the arbitrator’s determination.

After Stellantis introduced the requirement for workers and guests at its Canadian services in October alongside General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co., it applied it beginning Dec. 17 after discussions with the Canadian autoworkers union Unifor. Unifor Local 444 and Local 1285, which signify staff making the Chrysler Pacifica minivan at Windsor Assembly Plant and Dodge muscle vehicles and Chrysler 300 sedan at Brampton Assembly Plant in Ontario, respectively, filed a grievance over the coverage.

Arbitrator Marilyn Nairn decided the mandate was “reasonable” when the coverage was put in place, however ordered Stellantis finish it beginning June 25.

“After careful review and not without considerable personal reservation,” she wrote, “I hereby find that a COVID-19 vaccine mandate defined as requiring two doses (of a two-dose vaccine) is no longer reasonable based on the evidence supporting the waning efficacy of that vaccination status and the failure to establish that there is any notable difference in the degree of risk of transmission of the virus as between the vaccinated (as defined in the Policy) and the unvaccinated.

“Rather, the proof helps a conclusion that there’s negligible distinction within the danger of transmission in respect of Omicron as between a two-dose vaccine routine and remaining unvaccinated. There is, underneath the definition within the Policy, now not a foundation for eradicating unvaccinated staff from the office.”

The arbitrator also noted the Canadian federal government was lifting its own mandate effective Monday.

Almost 95% of the workers at Windsor and Brampton assembly plants are vaccinated. There were 262 unvaccinated employees, including 123 who were seeking a medical or religious exemption. Three people had been granted a medical exemption. Another 71 workers declined to disclose their vaccination status.

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Stellantis Canada spokeswoman LouAnn Gosselin said in a statement the automaker is reviewing the decision before determining its next steps.

“We are very happy with the Arbitrator’s determination that the Stellantis vaccine coverage is cheap,” she said. “Stellantis takes its obligation to supply a protected and wholesome working setting for its 9,000+ staff all through Canada critically.”

Local 444 President Dave Cassidy said the union would be in talks with the automaker this week ahead of the mandate’s end.

“It’s been very arduous on lots of people,” Cassidy said in a video posted on the local’s Facebook page on Saturday. “There are going to be those that say, ‘I did not need to take the shot, however I used to be pressured to, the corporate pressured me to do it.’ Like I mentioned many occasions, that is such a divisive concern that we have been coping with. But I can inform you, your native, your management believed nobody ought to lose their job due to a selection, and other people ought to all the time have a selection.”

Between the spring of 2020 and April 2022, there were at least 1,096 known positive cases of COVID-19 among employees at the two plants, 817 of which were reported after Jan. 1, according to the arbitration decision. Across Stellantis’ Canada operations, there were 1,221 cases. There was one known workplace outbreak, though three notifications at Brampton and seven notifications at Windsor were sent to the Labour Ministry for workplace exposures since 2020.

Meanwhile, Ford continues to require full vaccination for anyone entering a company facility in Canada, where more than 95% of employees are vaccinated or have received an exemption, spokeswoman Kerri Stoakley said in a statement. The policy’s deadline was extended to July 4 from May 2.

GM didn’t immediately respond to request for comment.

The Detroit Three never instituted a vaccine mandate for bargaining-unit employees in the United States, as it was subject to the United Auto Workers, which held the decision should be a choice for workers.

Stellantis had announced in November a mandate for U.S. nonunionized salaried employees, but suspended that policy in January after the U.S. Supreme Court blocked a federal emergency temporary standard from the U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration from taking effect. The standard would’ve required employers with 100 or more workers to ensure their employees are vaccinated or tested weekly. At the time, 97% of the affected 14,000 employees had gotten the vaccine or a medical or religious exemption.

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