"Effective December 31, employees who remain unvaccinated or who have not shared their proof of complete vaccination dosage will have their employment terminated," reads the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) statement. However, the punitive measures will not apply to employees who have received an Ontario Human Rights Code accommodation or exemption. The TTC statement did not address how they would accommodate those employees.
Friday's announcement marks an escalation of the TTC issued mandatory COVID vaccination policy, issued in August, which drew brief opposition from ATU Local 113 before the union representing thousands of GTA transit workers abruptly reversed course. The union raised issues about a lack of consultation and the absence of "reasonable solution" such as regular testing offered by other employers.
ATU Local 113 echoed those sentiments in a statement Friday afternoon called on "the TTC to allow regular testing as an alternative to COVID vaccination, reported Global News. We have opposed the TTC's heavy-handed approach to vaccinations since the announcement of its mandatory vaccine policy. ATU Local 113 remains firm in its belief that getting vaccinated should be the choice of each worker. We will continue to work with the TTC to get as many members vaccinated as possible through education, rather than coercion," the union continued.
Currently, about 85 percent of the TTC's 15,061 employees have shared their vaccination status, the transit agency said. Out of the 85 percent, 11 percent have one dose, and 89 percent are fully vaccinated.
"Unfortunately, we have to take these steps," TTC CEO Rick Leary said. "The TTC is an essential service, and we need it to be a safe place for everyone. We will be doing everything we can to uphold our core value of safety."
The call to fire vaccine-hesitant employees comes amid a potential worker shortage caused by its COVID vaccine mandate, forcing them to recall retired workers to fill labour gaps possibly. All TTC workers must be fully vaccinated by October 30.
The TTC pushed back start dates for bus, streetcar and subway sign-ups to November 3 to account for the mandate deadline. "Out of due diligence, we need to envision different scenarios and our service planning process requires a long lead time," said a TTC spokesperson. ATU Local 113 previously called the approach "confrontational" and claimed the TTC "repeatedly failed to share vital information" concerning the mandate.