While coronavirus vaccine mandates for employees have become a flashpoint in Canada recently, these types of mandates continue to be upheld in several jurisdictions around the world as the pandemic rages on.
Here in Canada, a New Brunswick judge has rejected a bid by four public servants to overturn the province’s decision to place them on unpaid leave for failing to get vaccinated against the virus.
In a scathing decision that takes aim at basic anti-vaccination arguments, Court of Queen’s Bench Justice E. Thomas Christie ruled the court has no jurisdiction over the matter. He said employment-related disputes within a unionized workplace like the provincial government must be handled through the union’s grievance and adjudication process.
Last fall, the province made coronavirus vaccinations mandatory for all government employees, saying those who failed to comply with the directive would be placed on indefinite unpaid leave. In November, two teachers and two health-care workers sued the province, claiming their constitutional rights had been violated.
In his decision, Christie called the workers’ legal arguments “rambling” and rejected the notion that they were being forced to do something against their will, as if they were being treated as slaves. “The applicants claim that their bodily integrity is at stake, comparing themselves to victims of some of the most brutal crimes. . . . I join in the developing judicial view that, in the circumstances of a global pandemic, policies of the type presently at issue force no one to do anything.”
Meanwhile, New York City has fired 1,430 workers who failed to comply with the city’s vaccine mandate. The workers who lost their jobs represent fewer than one per cent of the city’s workforce and there are far fewer terminations than expected before a recent deadline to get the shots.
The city sent notices in late January to up to 4,000 workers, saying they had to show proof they got at least two doses of the vaccine or else they’d lose their jobs. Three-quarters of those workers had already been on leave without pay for months, having missed an earlier deadline for getting vaccinated in order to stay on the job.
Of the fired workers, about 64 per cent worked for the city’s education department. The United Federation of Teachers, the public school teachers’ union, said last week that roughly 700 of its members had been given notice they would be fired. The union joined with others to sue to block the firings, but a judge ruled in favour of the city.
And Zimbabwe’s government says it will stop paying salaries of staff who are unvaccinated against the coronavirus, while ordering those who have received jabs to report for work at their offices “with immediate effect” after more than a year of most government employees working from home, state media reported Feb. 15.
In September 2021, the government ordered all of its 500,000 workers to get vaccinated against the virus. The country’s largest labour federation has gone to the courts to challenge vaccine mandates imposed by the government and private employers.