WINDSOR, Ont. – Unifor Local 444 says an arbitrator has ruled that Stellantis Canada’s mandatory vaccine policy will have to end.
The union representing workers at the automaker’s Windsor and Brampton, Ont. plants had challenged the mandate that Stellantis announced on Oct. 15, 2021.
It says that while the arbitrator ruled the policy was reasonable when put in place, and remains reasonable, new variants of COVID-19 and other factors make the policy unreasonable as of June 25.
Local president Dave Cassidy said in a video message to members that the union would be working with the company on a return to work plan for those who have not been able to work because they had not been vaccinated.
Stellantis spokeswoman LouAnn Gosselin said in a statement that the company was pleased that the arbitrator decided the vaccine policy is reasonable.
She says the company takes seriously its obligation to provide a safe working environment for its more than 9,000 employees in Canada and is carefully reviewing the decision before deciding next steps.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 20, 2022.
Vaccine mandate ending for Windsor and Brampton Stellantis auto workers
This decision comes after arbitrator Marilyn A. Nairn sided with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Canada, a Stellantis subsidiary, that mandatory vaccination was no longer a reasonable policy.
On Friday, she said, “I am prepared to provide the Employer with a short window to consider and address whatever flows from this decision before the Policy is vacated.” Still, the Stellantis’ vaccine mandate will be “of no force or effect” beginning June 25.
Nairn added that while she believed the vaccine mandate was “reasonable” back in October 2021, this has changed.
According to the arbitrator, out of 262 unvaccinated employees, 123 (half) have sought a medical or religious exemption.
While Unifor initially supported the policy at the national level, employees say they were being unfairly discriminated against for their personal health choices.
According to CTV News, “About two weeks after the policy was released, a grievance was filed by three unions representing workers at the Windsor Assembly Plant (WAP), the WAP’s security unit and the Brampton Assembly Plant.”
Unifor Local 444 President Dave Cassidy also said that he believed that “nobody should lose their job because of something they didn’t want to put in their body,” adding that the Stellantis’ vaccine mandate has been “the most divisive issue” since he took on the role of union president.
“People are frustrated when nobody has income coming in…I understand the frustrations that people have. So today is a good day,” Cassidy said.
He now says that he’ll be working with employees to come back to work and “get their benefits” back.