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Stellantis must end vaccine mandate for auto workers in Windsor, Brampton next week: arbitrator


An arbitrator has ruled Stellantis must lift its vaccine mandate for auto workers in its Windsor and Brampton assembly plants on June 25.

The decision comes after the company's unveiling of the policy in Oct. 2021. At the time, support was expressed by Unifor at the national level — but disputed at the local level.

What followed was a back-and-forth between workers who felt they were being punished for making a personal medical choice and a company that stood by its vaccination requirements.

In the end, an arbitrator has ruled that while the mandate's implementation was "reasonable" at the time of its release, that is no longer the case today.

About two weeks after the policy was released, a grievance was filed by three unions representing workers at the Windsor Assembly Plant (WAP), the WAP's security unit and the Brampton Assembly Plant.

On Friday, arbitrator Marilyn A. Nairn concluded the policy was "reasonable and continued to be reasonable" when it was first released.

But evidence supporting waning efficacy of vaccines overtime and a failure to establish "any notable difference" in the risk of transmission between vaccinated and unvaccinated workers, Nairn added, requires the mandate to be lifted.

"I am prepared to provide the Employer with a short window to consider and address whatever flows from this decision before the Policy is vacated," said Nairn, adding Stellantis' vaccine mandate will be "of no force or effect” as of June 25.

Unifor Local 444 President Dave Cassidy said his team has always believed "nobody should lose their job because of something they didn't want to put in their body."

"We thought that people should always have choice," said Cassidy, adding discussions will begin with the company "early this week" to figure out how to transition employees back into the workplace.

"Because they have to get their benefits and everything started back up,” he added.

Cassidy reiterated previous comments made during this dispute that Stellantis' vaccine mandate has been "the most divisive issue" he has dealt with during his tenure as local union president.

"People are frustrated when nobody has income coming in...I understand the frustrations that people have. So today is a good day,” he said.

According to documents submitted to the arbitrator, more than 300 employees have been placed on unpaid leave due to this policy — including 262 who are unvaccinated and 71 others who have not disclosed their status.

Of the 262 unvaccinated workers, 123 are "continuing to seek a medical or religious exemption under the Policy," the arbitrator said.

In a statement to CTV News, Stellantis spokesperson Lou Ann Gosselin said the company takes its obligation to provide a "safe and healthy working environment" seriously and is "very pleased" that the arbitrator considered its vaccine policy to be reasonable throughout its implementation.

"We are carefully reviewing the decision before determining next steps," said Gosselin. Top Stories

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