According to Blacklock’s Reporter, ‘VIA Rail breached the Canada Labour Code in firing a locomotive engineer over his vaccination status, a federal arbitrator has ruled.’

The firing of an engineer who had been with the company for 19 years was overruled by an arbitrator after the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference raised a union grievance.

Arbitrator overturns #VIARail firing of unvaxed engineer, calls it “unreasonable,” “unjust.” Number of Crown employees fired under #vax mandate has never been disclosed. #cdnpoli— Blacklock’s Reporter (@mindingottawa) March 17, 2023

Engineer Louison Tessier was fired by Via Rail on January 24, 2022, six months prior to the vaccine mandate for rail employees being lifted.

The Teamsters contract states no member could be fired “without a fair and impartial hearing,” and labour arbitrator Graham Clarke agreed, ruling the railway “decided on its own initiative to add disciplinary consequences for non-vaccinated employees” and “VIA did not have just and sufficient cause.”

Rail, marine and airline industries were forced by the federal government to bring in a vaccine passport system for employees. This requirement was suspended in June.

“The government’s vaccine mandate for domestic and international flights departing from Canada, for VIA Rail and Rocky Mountaineer trains and for cruise ships expires this month. It’s expected to be extended”.

Unbelievable.— Kelly Brown (@rubiconcapital_) March 16, 2022

Passengers also were forced to divulge vaccination status and unvaccinated travellers were not permitted to fly, sail or ride the rails.

Hey @OmarAlghabra, since you and Justin Trudeau had to back down on vaccine mandates for truckers, if you’re so confident why not level with Canadians about the low vaccine disclosure level at VIA Rail? #ViaRail— Rowan (@canmericanized) January 13, 2022

The rail industry receives enormous subsidies from the Federal government.

.@VIA_Rail subsidies in 2021 cost from $35 to $862 per passenger, according to financial statements. Ridership was 5 million prior to pandemic but fell to 1.5 million last year. @Garneau_Cynthia @OmarAlghabra #cdnpoli— Holly Doan (@hollyanndoan) May 11, 2022

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VIA Rail Breached Code of Conduct in Firing Engineer Over Vaccination Status, Federal Arbitrator Rules

VIA Rail violated the Canada Labour Code when it terminated the employment of a locomotive engineer in January 2022 because of his vaccination status, a federal arbitrator has ruled.

Arbitrator Graham Clarke ruled that VIA Rail, a Crown corporation, didn’t have “just and sufficient cause” to fire the engineer for refusing to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, according to Blacklock’s Reporter.

Louison Tessier had been an engineer with railway for nearly 20 years when he was dismissed without pay on Jan. 24, 2022, for not having a COVID shot.

The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, which represented Tessier, challenged VIA’s decision shortly after, citing the union’s contract that said no member could be fired “without a fair and impartial hearing.”

In his case ruling, Clarke wrote that VIA had “decided on its own initiative to add disciplinary consequences for non-vaccinated employees” and said there were no “new recommendation from public health authorities” at the time that supported the company’s reasons for dismissing Tessier.

“VIA never explained why on January 24 it was necessary to immediately terminate Mr. Tessier’s employment rather than keep him on leave without pay,” Clarke wrote.

“The policy was unreasonable.”

Clarke ordered Via Rail to rehire Tessier and to remove from his employment file any reference to his being fired by the company in January 2022.

However, the ruling did not include any order for VIA to compensate Tessier pending negotiations between his union and the railway.

Federal Vaccine Mandates

In November 2022, a group consisting of hundreds of federal employees launched a legal challenge of Ottawa’s COVID vaccine mandate, which went into effect in October 2021 and was suspended in June 2022.

The government’s mandate required that all federal workers either get two vaccine doses or be suspended without pay unless they obtained exemptions approved through the policy.

Launched by Quebec-based group United Servants, the challenge against the mandate seeks to obtain a court ruling that will “make it impossible for the government to ever again implement” a policy such as its previous vaccine mandate, according to the group’s coordinator, Bernard Desgagné.

When it suspended the mandate in June 2022, the government noted the possibility of reintroducing it should “scientific evidence” point to a need for further public health measures.

The Treasury Board of Canada said at the time that over 2,100 federal employees, which represented less than 2 percent of the federal workforce, had been put on leave without pay for either refusing to disclose their vaccination status or to get two COVID shots while the mandate was in place.

Isaac Teo contributed to this report. 

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