TTC alleges employees refusing to disclose COVID-19 vaccination status are part of illegal strike

The TTC is alleging its largest union is carrying out an illegal job action by encouraging its members to refuse to disclose their COVID-19 vaccination status, pushing the internal clash over the transit agency’s policy into a new phase.

In an application filed to the Ontario Labour Relations Board on Tuesday, the TTC said that the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113’s communications with its members has resulted in an “abysmally low” disclosure rate. The union represents about 12,000 transit agency employees, mostly in Toronto.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have taken extraordinary steps to keep everyone safe and comfortable while working at and riding on the TTC. Our mandatory vaccination policy is part of this commitment,” TTC CEO Rick Leary said in a statement,

“Regrettably, ATU Local 113 executives have engaged in a campaign that is creating obstacles to our objectives and is hindering the best public health advice regarding vaccinations.”

The TTC initially announced its intention to introduce a COVID-19 vaccine mandate in August, and released details of the plan on Sept. 7. The policy requires that employees receive two doses of vaccine by no later than Oct. 30.

The transit agency had set a deadline of Sept. 20 for employees to disclose their vaccination status. In its application to the labour board, the TTC noted that by Sept. 19, only about 31.5 per cent of ATU Local 113 members had done so. 

A few days later, on Sept. 23, the disclosure rate stood at about 38 per cent.

“These disclosure rates clearly demonstrate concerted effort amongst  ATU members, as a result of the ATU communications, not to disclose their vaccination status to the TTC in violation of its policy,” the TTC said in its filing to the board.

The TTC has extended its deadline for disclosure to Sept. 30. 

A recent statement from ATU Local 113 said it is protecting the rights of its members to make their own personal health decisions and protect their private medical information. Union leadership has alleged that TTC management is “unwilling to provide details about whether members will be fired or disciplined for not disclosing vaccination status.”

The TTC has asked the labour board to designate the union’s directive to its members as an unlawful strike action, an asked that the application be considered on an expedited basis.

According to the TTC’s vaccine policy, employees who refuse to disclose their status will need to undergo mandatory education sessions. It allows for some exemptions, but also says that being fully vaccinated is a precondition for employment.

In a statement in a response to the filing, John Di Nino, president of ATU Canada, called on Leary to resign and noted that, on the eve of the new disclosure deadline, fewer than 50 per cent of members had done so.

“TTC workers have been on the front lines of this pandemic, delivering service to this city, while risking their personal safety from the beginning. They deserve the respect and gratitude of Toronto and their employer — not threats and intimidation,” Di Nino said.

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