Skip to content

Greater Sudbury vaccine policy was reasonable, arbitrator rules

The same as various other COVID-19 vaccination policies employed by organizations, the City of Greater Sudbury’s policy was above board, a labour arbitrator has ruled

The COVID-19 vaccination policy the City of Greater Sudbury employed throughout the heart of the pandemic was above board, a labour arbitrator has ruled.

“The vaccination requirement under the Policy was a reasonable exercise of the City’s management rights at all material times,” arbitrator Kevin Burkett ruled in a matter of arbitration between CUPE Local 4705 and the City of Greater Sudbury.

In his ruling, Burkett found it was also reasonable that:

  • The city required that employees become fully vaccinated by Nov. 15, 2021, failing which they rendered themselves unable to work and, therefore, to be placed on unpaid leave.
  • For the City to require employees to be able to return to work by Jan. 17, 2022, failing which they would become absent without leave.
  • For the City for the City not to have considered unvaccinated employees or former (seasonal) employees eligible to return to a position with the City in May 2022, at which time the vaccination policy remained in effect.

Burkett ruled that the City’s COVID-19 vaccination policy did not violate:

  • The collective agreements
  • The Occupational Health and Safety Act
  • The Human Rights Code (subject to individual claims for accommodation, which were not addressed)
  • The Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act
  • The Labour Relations Act

Burkett’s ruling disposes of all policy, group and individual grievances pertaining to the city’s vaccination policy, minus Human Rights Code claims, whose potential accommodations were remitted to parties for discussion.

Burkett cited precedent from Canada Post, Coca Cola, Purolator Canada and Bunge Hamilton Canada in supporting a vaccination policy.

The City of Greater Sudbury’s vaccination policy was released in September 2021, and remained in place until May 1, 2023.

Of the 51 city employees who lost their jobs as a result of declining to adhere to the city’s vaccination policy by refusing COVID-19 vaccines, 50 were unionized and one was non-union.

Of the 50 unionized employees, City Corporate Services general manager Kevin Fowke told in May that 14 of them didn’t challenge the city’s decision to terminate their employment and are believed to have moved on. The one non-union member is also believed to have moved on.

One person received an exemption on human rights-related religious grounds. Affected employees were from across various departments, and 21 were volunteer firefighters.

Burkett’s ruling responded to “a number of grievances” which related to the alleged “unreasonableness and application” of the city’s vaccination policy.


Verified reader

If you would like to apply to become a verified commenter, please fill out this form.