BCH & Powertech – Arbitration Update – COVID19 Vaccine Mandate Policy

November 1, 2022

To: All MoveUP members at BCH & Powertech

We wanted to provide an update on the current status of the vaccination mandate policy grievance. Many things have transpired since our last update and felt that as situations evolve and settle, we would provide a wholesome update.

On July 6, 2022. The union announced to our members that a decision was made by Arbitrator Somjen regarding our policy grievance. In his decision Arbitrator Somjen deemed the vaccine mandate reasonable. However, he 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 and that the member capable of working this way should be granted a “carve out” from the policy.

Arbitrator Somjen found that allowing members who can do so to work from home or work alone outdoors was less invasive of their privacy and a reasonable alternative to mandatory vaccination, and therefore that carve outs are appropriate and practical for undeclared employees who, during the height of the pandemic, worked exclusively from home and can continue to do so.

Additionally, the arbitrator found carve outs to be appropriate for undeclared employees who work outside and have no in-person contact with other employees, contractors, or the public.

Since the decsion, significant efforts have been made to identify those who fall within Arbitrator Somjen’s definition of a carve out. Your union has been working collaboratively with the employer in clarifying and defining job duties that could be done exclusively from home and or without contact with others. As we work through these carve outs, we recognize that there will be some jobs that do not fall within Arbitrator Somjen’s decision.

On September 26, 2022, the employer announced that they will be suspending the COVID-19 vaccine mandate effective September 26, 2022.  The employer had provided direction to all those employees who have been affected by this mandate to return to their positions. We understand that some members were reluctant to return due to the uncertainty of the mandate suspension. Whether you decide to return or if you choose not to return to your position with BC Hydro, the union will continue to seek resolution for our carved-out members who were placed on leave of absence due to the vaccine mandate.

On October 26, 2022, the union, and the employer along with our respective legal counsel met with Arbitrator Somjen to seek clarification on his initial award.  Through this process the union and the employer were provided further clarity on the interpretation of his decision. This has led to a supplementary award being given by the arbitrator, and the union will utilize this clarity to further advocate for those jobs contested. Once we conclude the outcome of the carve outs, we will be seeking remedy to make those members eligible for a carve out made whole.

We appreciate all the support and feedback from our members since we began this process. We understand your patience and support have been stretched thin.  We also understand whether you are directly or indirectly affected by this vaccine mandate, everyone has been affected by the pandemic.

We will continue to provide further updates via bulletin as more information becomes available to us.

In solidarity,

Javed Saheb, Union Representative
Ronnie Ho, Union Representative

File Number: 22-BCH-BLTN-Arbitration-Update-COVID19-Vaccine-Mandate-November-1
Union Label: km/usw:2009


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