Group of federal workers protest vaccine mandate as attestation deadline looms
OTTAWA -- Time is running out for federal workers to disclose their vaccination status, but there is a growing group of them that is against it, putting them at risk of losing their jobs.
Stacey Payne is a federal public servant, and she might be days away from unemployment. She doesn’t agree with disclosing her medical information, even if it means staying employed.
“The government has no right to know my private medical information. That is between me and my health care practitioner only,” says Payne. “This isn’t about this specific mandate and the vaccine. This is about our privacy.”
Payne created a Facebook group called "Feds for Freedom" that now has around 4,700 members. She says this isn’t a collection of anti-vaxxers, but more of a group fighting to keep their privacy.
The Feds for Freedom have been protesting outside of the offices of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, hoping to get more support from the union that represents them.
But the union, which represents more than 120,000 workers, wants all of its members vaccinated.
“As a union, we absolutely respect everyone's right to protest,” says Chris Aylward, PSAC National President. “We also encourage all our members, including the protesters outside PSAC's national office, to get vaccinated unless they have a valid medical or other human rights exemption.”
“Our unions are not supporting us,” says Payne. “Our unions are not having meaningful conversations with its members about our concerns.”
Jon Pinkus is an employment lawyer at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP. He says because this mandate is law, there’s not much that any federal workers can do without a valid medical exemption.
“If they’re unionized and the union is not going to grieve their terminations for them, then they really have no recourse for getting their jobs back,” says Pinkus. “Those who are covered by the legal mandate, and they’re subject to this vaccination requirement, it’s difficult to see how they will be able to get an exemption simply on the grounds of privacy.”
Federal workers have until Friday to submit their proof of vaccination. If the employee still refuses to disclose their status, they will be placed on administrative leave without pay as early as Nov. 15.
Payne says she is standing her ground.
“This was not one of my terms and conditions of employment, nor will it ever be. I will leave before I sign up to divulge my private medical information.”