- TORONTO (CNW) - Ontario paramedics
who are waging a fight with the province to have a mandatory flu vaccine
removed from the Ambulance Act, have been given a 'booster' by a landmark
labour board decision that says a mandatory flu shot for workers is a serious
invasion of the body.
- The decision, the first of its kind, upheld the right
of tens of thousands of health care workers to refuse to comply with a
mandatory flu shot as a condition of employment. The grievance was put
forth by the Canadian Union of Public Employees, on behalf of 130 members
working at St. Peter's Health System, a chronic care geriatric facility
- The union argued that the hospital did not have the legal
right to suspend nine workers who refused to comply with a mandatory flu
vaccine. The experienced arbitrators ruled that a forced flu shot infringes
on an employees' privacy rights and that the express consent of the worker
is required or it is an assault of the person.
- "This is a victory for all health care workers.
But the ruling is a welcome shot in the arm for paramedics who are arguing
under the Charter of Rights that they are being discriminated against by
the province, which has foisted a mandatory flu vaccine on them. The labour
board says this is a violation of common law and an invasion of the body,"
says Sid Ryan, the Ontario president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees
(CUPE), the union that represents the majority of Ontario's 5,000 paramedics
and 40,000 health care workers province-wide.
- Today, at a Queen's Park media conference, Ryan, Michael
Hurley, the president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU),
and Steven Barrett, a lawyer with Sack, Goldblatt and Mitchell provided
details of the arbitration board decision and it's relevance to a legal
challenge launched last year on behalf of paramedics who refused to comply
with a mandatory flu shot.
- Over the winter, 50 paramedics were suspended after they
refused to comply with mandatory flu shot legislation. All are back on
the job, except for Bill Kotsopoulos, a North Bay paramedic. His employer,
the North Bay Hospital, is still refusing to allow Kotsopoulos to return
- In addition to the labour board ruling lending weight
to the charter challenge, it also "gives a clear message to the management
of the hospital that forcing someone to get a flu vaccine as a condition
of employment is a violation of a workers' rights. The right thing to do
is to allow Bill back to work," says Ryan.
- In February, paramedics representing the majority of
the province's ambulance workers gave the Ontario government a forceful
message that unless a legislated mandatory flu shot is removed from the
Ambulance Act, next fall they will mobilize province-wide non-compliance.
- "We've asked for dialogue with the health minister,
but so far there has been no response. This needs to be resolved now before
we head into the fall flu season, with the majority of the province's paramedics
not complying. We are urging the minister to deal with this issue over
the summer months or he will be accountable for the turmoil in our emergency
system next fall," warns Ryan.
- © 2002 Canada NewsWire Ltd. All rights reserved.