BCH & Powertech – Arbitration Update – COVID19 Vaccine Mandate Policy
May 25, 2023
To: All MoveUP members at BCH & Powertech
On March 17, 2020, people around our province, including our MoveUP members working at BC Hydro and Powertech, were faced with an unprecedented event when a public health emergency was declared provincially as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the months to follow, your union and your employer have worked together to mitigate the effects of these challenges by doing everything we can to ensure a safe working environment for everybody. By working together, this made it possible for our members to continue working at a time when, unfortunately, many suffered employment losses.
We wanted to refresh all our members on what has been done since global pandemic was declared and the work that continues to happen now that the global health emergency has formally ended.
In October 2021, BC Hydro made the decision to implement a policy that required all employees to be vaccinated. Employees who did not declare their status as per the policy by November 22, 2021, would be placed on leave without pay.
On November 18, 2021, MoveUP challenged the reasonableness of this policy through the grievance process. Our union fought this policy all the way to arbitration.
On July 6, 2022, Arbitrator Somjen deemed the employer’s policy as reasonable. However, the arbitrator also determined that it was not reasonable to say that certain jobs cannot be done exclusively from home or work outside without contact with others. The arbitrator indicated that those members should have been granted a “carve-out”.
On September 21, 2022, the employer announced that they will be suspending the COVID-19 vaccine mandate effective September 26, 2022. The employer had provided directions to all those employees who have been affected by this mandate to return to the office.
On October 26, 2022, your union and your employer, along with our respective legal counsels, met with Arbitrator Somjen to seek clarification on his initial award. Through this process, both parties were provided further clarity on the interpretation of his decision. With this supplementary award, our union will further advocate for those jobs contested.
On March 15, 2023, we were able to establish a list with your employer of those jobs which were categorized as a “carved-out,” “non-carved-out,” and “undetermined.” Members who were “carved-out” and “not carved-out” were determined based on the interpretation of Arbitrator Somjen’s supplementary award. Those who were undetermined will be forwarded to the arbitrator for final determination. All affected members were provided with personalized letters stating their status by the employer.
On April 17, 2023, the employer terminated their vaccination mandate policy.
As we approach the month of June, your union and your employer will have spent over a year and a half, totaling hundreds of hours, on this grievance. We will be entering our final arguments on the undetermined positions on June 22 and July 18.
As we draw near the end of this grievance process, we want to thank all our members for their support and patience. We understand that while some members may not necessarily agree with or support our process during the pandemic, but our goal from the beginning has always been to represent all members fairly and reasonably. Further updates on the conclusion of the grievance will be provided when available.
Javed Saheb, Union Representative
Ronnie Ho, Union Representative