Photo shows a HSR supervisor car on the right, with a HSR 60-foot articulated bus to its left. Both are waiting at an intersection during a red light.
A Hamilton Street Railway supervisor vehicle and articulated bus in Downtown Hamilton in late June 2020 Credit: Joey Coleman / The Public Record

The union representing Hamilton’s transit workers is filing a grievance against the City’s new COVID vaccination policy.

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 107 president Eric Tuck says the City failed to consult with the union and is being hypocritical about health and safety by not enforcing COVID safety measures such as the passenger mask mandate on board buses.

Tuck emphasizes that the union supports the COVID vaccine and encourages its members to “get the vaccinations and wear masks while taking all safety precautions.”

“We are concerned that this policy may be too far-reaching,” Tuck writes in a written statement issued just after 1 p.m. today.

“To cite health and safety concerns while failing to implement functional and sanitary washroom facilities as negotiated or enforcing mandatory masks on workers while not enforcing them on passengers only further fosters our skepticism,” the statement reads.

Tuck writes that “proactive policies such as on-site vaccination clinics, promotional and educational efforts to address misinformation and alleviate false fears would have gone a long way to foster trust and encourage higher voluntary vaccinations.”

The union is grieving for what it states is “the obvious violation of failing to inform and allow prior input.”

The City’s executive director of human resources, Lora Fortana, stated during Thursday’s Council meeting that she offered to consult with the unions regarding the COVID vaccine policy. “We issued a communication to our union leaders last week and invited them to discuss any questions or concerns that they may have.”

She stated that only CUPE 5167, the union representing the City’s indoor and outdoor workers, responded. “Their leaders requested a meeting. And we met with them earlier this week.”

The City’s COVID vaccination policy aims to contain the spread of the Delta variant during the ongoing fourth wave of the virus and to facilitate the reopening of more facilities and offices.

HSR workers who choose not to take the vaccination must complete an education program and take regular COVID tests.

City staff must disclosure their vaccination status by September 15, and those who choose to be vaccinated have until November 1 to complete receiving both doses.

The City is working on its testing policy. Fortana stated Thursday, “We haven’t really finalized those details or logistics on how we’re going to manage the testing process … whether or not it’s once a week or twice a week is yet to be resolved.”