Covid Policy Update – 20 October 2021

On 7 October 2021 we notified the membership via our L21 website that we would be answering two (2) questions tabled as possible grievances at our next Executive Board meeting.

Those items were:

  1.  Are these policies permissible under law?
  2.  Is the City of Regina obligated by our Collective Agreement to continue paying for testing beyond 15 November 2021?

In answering these two (2) questions we consulted legal assessments by both our Cupe National body and other Labour Organizations which covered the following topics:

  1. Nuremberg Code
  2. UNESCO Universal Declaration
  3. Can an employer have testing as a requirement.
  4. Has the employer met their obligations under the KVP test  
  5. Impact of Provincial Regulations
  6. Charter Implications
  7. Conscientious objection
  8. Genetic non-Discrimination Act
  9. Privacy Rights
  10. Duty to Accommodate (DTA)
  11. Saskatchewan Human Rights Code (SHRC)
  12. Right to Refuse
  13. Prospective Discipline for non-Compliance
  14. Duty of Fair Representation
  15. Reasonableness Test
  16. Paid Testing

The majority of the Executive Board found that the above was duly considered in the assessments and that the answer was “yes” to both questions.

What this means going forward:

Vaccinated or Test Policy:

As the majority of the Executive Board has found this policy to be generally permissible we will not be grieving the policy at this time. In addition we have added the caveat that we must be cautious of a few points going forward:

  1. Should the policy change we will need to review those changes.
  2. Should discipline flow from this policy we would need to follow our standard process.

Paid Testing:

The Executive Board has found that our Collective Agreement sufficiently covers this item (and among other items) and we will be grieving this unpaid testing.

It’s important to keep in mind that while this works through the process, which is generally not a fast one; members will still be expected to comply with the policy.

I’d like to share some general submissions from the assessment which are pertinent to the above:

 Do the Nuremberg Code and UNESCO Declaration apply to COVID-19 Vaccination? 

Ultimately, neither the Nuremberg Code nor the UNESCO Declaration are applicable to COVID-19 vaccination. First, both documents explicitly concern experimentation, and not simply any medical treatment. This means that their principles no longer apply once any given vaccine has been through a clinical trial and approved for use.

The four (4) COVID-19 vaccines that are currently approved for use in Canada include — Pfizer / BioNTech  /  Moderna and AstraZeneca – all underwent rigorous, carefully monitored large-scale clinical trials before being reviewed by Health Canada. As the vaccines were developed, the clinic trials that were undertaken were all strictly in line with the Nuremberg Code.

All of the participants in clinical trials were given the opportunity to review the risks and consent. The fact that these trials were prioritized and accelerated due to the severity of the pandemic is not evidence that the trials were a sham. More importantly, in the employment context, no worker can ever be forced to take a vaccine.

Legally speaking, there is a crucial difference between forcing vaccination upon a worker and imposing consequences on a worker who chooses not to get vaccinated. In the latter case, the worker retains ultimate control over their body and the right to forego vaccination if they so choose. Just because a worker could suffer negative consequences from remaining unvaccinated, it does not mean that their employer is forcing them to be vaccinated.

For these reasons, the Nuremberg Code, the UNESCO Declaration, and any other regulations prohibiting forced experimentation cannot apply to a COVID-19 vaccination and / or testing policy or regulation.

 My findings in that memorandum will support a conclusion that the City of Regina’s Policy is largely reasonable, for these reasons:

 – A workplace policy can be legally based in either Legislation or the Collective Agreement. If there is no Legislation that tells the employer it must do something, the parties must turn to the Collective Agreement for guidance.

– The respective Collective Agreements between the City of Regina, Local 7, and Local 21 do not explicitly prohibit the City of Regina from instituting a “vaccination or test” policy. Where the Collective Agreement is silent, an employer has a broad “management right” to implement policies in the workplace. Such policies are subject to analysis under a test known as “KVP”.

– In the present case, the City of Regina appears to be choosing to “opt-in” to recent regulations under the Saskatchewan Employment Act (SEA). These regulations – The Employer’s COVID-19 Emergency Regulations – allow any provincial employer to choose to implement a vaccination or weekly testing regime.

– Because the regulations are “opt-in”, it could theoretically be possible to challenge the employer’s decision to adopt the policy. In such a challenge, the Union would argue that the employer exercised its management rights unreasonably when it made the choice to opt into a COVID-19 vaccination or test policy. However, my opinion is that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to argue the decision to opt-in to government regulations. Ultimately, an Arbitrator would be likely to show great deference to an employer that opts-in to a government regime.

– In any case, the City of Regina’s arguments in favour of this policy are strong. The workplace is large, and I understand that members regularly or semi-regularly intermingle with each other or cross paths with members of the public. The fact that Local 21 members spend the majority of their time outdoors is only one (1) factor that could be used against the policy. In recent cases, Arbitrators have not given this “open air” factor very much weight.

– The City of Regina’s policy appears to contain all of the requisite safeguards and balancing features, these include:

  1. References to Human Rights Legislation
  2. Accommodation
  3. Personal Privacy concerns
  4. Occupational Health and Safety (OHS)
  5. Progressive Discipline.

All of these provisions will support the policy’s general reasonableness. However, be aware that any improper application of this policy or these safeguards, including deviation from the policy and/or the government regulations, can and should be grieved.

– Medical, political, and social consensus is growing that COVID-19 and its delta variant can be very harmful to individuals in every demographic. Additionally, the consensus is growing in favour of vaccines, which are deemed to be both effective and safe by Health Canada. This combination of factors weighs heavily in favour of the City of Regina’s current policy and would make it extremely difficult to challenge at Arbitration, regardless of any government regulations

– Arguments that invoked personal privacy and bodily integrity have not been successful thus far. While the strict issue of mandatory vaccination has not been tested at Arbitration, there are a number of mandatory testing cases from 2020. In these cases, Arbitrators found that imposing mandatory testing on employees was a reasonable response to the pandemic.

In Closing: 

I can appreciate that the decisions your Executive Board has made will not satisfy all but this is the direction we are going.  If members have any further questions on the matter I encourage them to either contact our office or attend our next general membership meeting.

With the exception of the paid testing – the City of Regina has introduced a reasonable middle ground policy between having nothing at all and mandatory vaccinations.

This is being done in order to combat the real demonstrable threat that Covid-19 presents to our society, our most vulnerable, and in order to keep our members safe while we continue to provide the services that allow this city to function.

Lastly, I want to end by thanking everyone for their patience as we delivered this message and thank you all for your continued work during these very difficult times.

Laird WilliamsonPresident

Covid Policy Update – 7 October 2021

We have been instructed that we will be receiving our legal opinion from CUPE National this week. Once we have that the Union will be tabling the following topics as possible grievances:

  • Are these polices permissible under law?
  • Is the City of Regina obligated by our Collective Agreement to continue paying for testing beyond 15 November 2021?

Once the Union has decided these topics we will post our decision on our website regarding the direction we are going.

A common topic that has been coming up recently is: what happens in the interim?

The practical reality is that if the Union chooses to pursue a policy grievance for any of the above topics there would still be an expectation that members comply with the polices under the principles of work now grieve later.

A grievance being initiated does not immediately exempt members from a policy that the City of Regina has implemented but rather would seek to strike down, in part or whole, a policy and afford remedy in a retroactive way if it was successful.

Members who wish not to participate in testing will be faced with a difficult decision to comply or not be permitted in the workplace subject to investigation and the discipline process.

I can state, as a matter of opinion not decision, that termination seems like an extreme reaction to measures that by all accounts are intended to be temporary.

We further acknowledge that no matter the direction that we go there will be case by case instances that we will be obligated to investigate and encourage our members to document everything that transpires with respect to their employment as we work through this.

Lastly, I want to thank all of our frontline staff for continuing to keep our city operational. You are the reason we are able to have a vibrant and well functioning city and we cannot thank you enough.

Laird Williamson / President

Covid-19 Update

Unfortunately Local 21 has not yet received our Legal Opinion on the Vaccination and Testing Policy. While we were hoping to receive it in advance of the testing procedures coming online, it is unlikely that we will receive it before then and any action that the Local takes will be retroactive if we take any.

I want to be clear and again clarify some misconceptions: Local 21 does not create or implement policies, we react to them.

Some key updates:

Testing:

Testing is now being delayed due to the testing policy not being completed. We met with the City of Regina on Monday 27 September 2021 to discuss this policy and many of our questions were not answered. What we do know is that the testing protocol is being developed in collaboration with the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) and will be required to meet all privacy legislation.

Human Rights:

If you have questions about vaccine policy and protected Human Rights, we would encourage you to review the Saskatchewan Human Rights (SHR) webpage at: https://saskatchewanhumanrights.ca/education-resources/information-sheets/covid-19-vaccines-vaccination-mandates-and-human-rights/.

If you are unable to provide proof of vaccination due to Code-Protected right(s), we encourage you to reach out to the City of Regina to begin the accommodation process.

Privacy:

This policy was created with professionals who work with all required Privacy Laws.

Information can be found on the Office of the Saskatchewan Information and Privacy  Commissioner’s (OSIPC) website here: https://oipc.sk.ca/statement-from-the-office-of-the-information-and-privacy-commissioner-of-saskatchewan-on-covid-19/

As noted in the in the Proof of Covid Vaccination Administrative Policy:

7.6 Any questions or concerns related to the City of Regina’s collection and use of personal information and personal health information pursuant to this Policy should be directed to the City of Regina Privacy Officer at: 

Jim Nicol, City Clerk / email: JNICOL@regina.ca / phone: (306) 529-4922.

Local 21 fully acknowledges and appreciates that this interim response has not provided many answers and that for some; this will be disappointing and frustrating. But we ask for patience while we navigate this – we need to be aware that there are competing ideologies within our own membership that is on both ends of the spectrum from – being upset that we are not doing enough to protect our members from Covid to the other end that any mandate is a violation of individual rights.

In order to react to polices we rely on the advice of experts and evidence in front of us instead of opinion.

Preliminary assessments, as well as other legal assessments, and the recent announcements by the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission (SHRC), and the Saskatchewan Government will be taken into consideration when we decide what action may be taken.

We will provide further communication once we have received the legal opinion specific to the City of Regina policies.

Thanks,

Laird Williamson / President

 

L21 Update – City of Regina Covid-19 Policy

On 21 September 2021 the City of Regina met with their Unions to discuss the proof of COVID-19 Vaccination Policy. During this meeting it was announced to us that the City of Regina would be accelerating their timeframe due to the announcement from the Province of Saskatchewan.

As we understand it, they now have an implementation date of 1 October 2021.

Policy:

Our legal assessment has not yet been completed. We are hopeful that this accelerated timeline will not impede us from having it prior to implementation and will post a summary and conclusion on the L21 website once we have the information.

Testing:

The City has not provided us a detailed explanation of this process yet but they are committed to meeting with the Unions prior to implementation. When we know more about this we will post a summary and conclusion on our L21 website.

Non-compliance:

The policy itself has a section regarding non-compliance. The City of Regina has not provided us a detailed explanation of this process but they are committed to meeting with the Unions prior to implementation. When we know more about this we will post a summary and conclusion on our L21 website.

What this means to you:

Beginning today the City of Regina will start conducting status meetings with their staff with the intention of acquiring their vaccination status. During this meeting you will have four (4) options of declaration:

  1. Fully vaccinated.
  2. Partially vaccinated.
  3. Not been partially or fully vaccinated.
  4. Choose not to disclose any vaccination status.

Options 2, 3, & 4 will mean that you are part of the pool of employees who will be subject to regular testing.

We encourage all members to review the policy and attend the status meeting. If you have concerns regarding the safety of your information – the contact information for that department is located in the policy.

We know this has not answered very many questions but we will continue to keep you as informed as we are.

Laird Williamson / President

EXTENDED – Member Cultural Survey

Because of the current pandemic concerns that we are all experiencing the member cultural survey registration deadline has been extended to … 30 September 2021.

Hello Everyone:

RE:          EXTENDED – Member Cultural Survey

In fall of 2019 your Union began asking some very hard questions about culture within the City of Regina. These questions and discussions led to starting committee work with the City of Regina and further details surrounding that work will be released at a later date.

Part of our plan involves acquiring a very frank assessment of the climate that our members live in every day. There are conclusions we can draw from what we observe, but knowing and hearing from our members will always be the best approach.

You are invited to participate in an anonymous Culture Survey.

Your feedback, good or bad, is paramount to our continued improvement plan and ensuring that the City of Regina is fostering an environment that supports not only the physical health, but also the psychological safety of our members.

If you wish to participate in this survey the following information is required:

  1. Your first and last name.
  2. Your City of Regina employee ID#.
  3. The preferred email address you wish to have the link sent to.
  4. Please send the required information to: cupe.local21@sasktel.net with the RE: line “survey”.

We encourage you to participate in this cultural survey.

Your identity will not be shared with anyone.

Those who register will be entitled to receive a gift card for Tim Horton’s as a way to show our appreciation for your feedback.

We ask that you register by: 30 September 2021 to be eligible to participate.

Some of these topics may be difficult or triggering for some. If you experience adverse reactions from it, please seek support to help you through it.

In solidarity,

Laird Williamson / President

City of Regina: Covid-19 Update

Good afternoon everyone:

We have now received the draft policy from the City of Regina regarding their Covid-19 proof of vaccinations or negative testing policy.

Please be advised that a legal assessment is currently being conducted and we will post our findings and position in the very near future.

Additionally, the policy may change based on the announcements from the Province of Saskatchewan so please bear with us as we navigate this.

Thanks,

Laird Williamson / President

 

City of Regina – Covid-19 Information

In response to the calls and emails regarding the recent covid-19 announcement by the City of Regina, please find below our interim response.

As this communication was only provided to the Union shortly before the public, we acknowledge people have many questions, as do we as the Union. We are currently working with our National Body and Legal Counsel and will be providing an official position on this in the near future.

For your information, we wish to clarify that the City of Regina is not mandating vaccinations.

The information we have at this time is that they are mandating:

  • proof of vaccination.
  • or negative testing for those who elect not to get vaccinated.
  • or are unable to get vaccinated.
  • this is a small but important difference.

At this point we have not been provided a policy on this subject but we are hopeful that we will be given that opportunity prior to implementation.

Please continue to check our website for further information.

We ask for your patience as we navigate this.

Laird Williamson / President 

 

Recreational Regina: A look at the city’s big promises, projects and ambitious dreams

Regina Leader Post

“Are all of these initiatives going to happen overnight? Absolutely not. Whether it’s an aquatic centre, whether it’s a replacement for Brandt, whether it’s a ball diamond — those need to be prioritized.”

From a new indoor aquatic centre promised by Mayor Sandra Masters and a new Wascana Pool on the way to a future rebuild of the Brandt Centre and dreams of a new baseball park, Regina’s list of recreation projects is long and expensive.

To fund it all will take creativity, vision, priority-setting and partnerships, says City Manager Chris Holden.

“Expectations around sport, recreation and culture have increased in the pandemic,” said Holden during an interview last week. “People have been at home. They’ve spent more time outside. They’ve spent more time in their community and the importance of park space, the importance of recreation facilities, seems on top of mind for a lot of folks.”

Here is a look at what projects have recently seen the light of day, what’s in the works and what is still in the dream phase as community members try to rally support — and cash — in order to change the recreational face of Regina.

Pools, pools, pools

During her mayoral campaign last year, Masters committed to the planning, financing, construction, commissioning and opening of a new leisure and competitive aquatic centre.

“It’s been on the list for 10 years,” said Masters in a recent interview. “In some respects you just can’t not start planning for them because you’re never sure when those infrastructure dollars from our other funding partners may be available.

“We have to commit to some of the work for the planning to be ready.”

Indoor aquatics facilities were listed as a priority in the city’s Recreation Master Plan, which was released in January 2019. Holden says a renewed Lawson Aquatic Centre is now in the planning stages, as the city undertakes a feasibility study and the creation of an advisory committee that will include aquatic groups and other stakeholders. One member of the city’s Accessibility Advisory Committee will also be on the committee. The study is expected to be completed in the spring of 2022 and Masters hopes to see construction of the new facility happen within the next two to five years.

The transformation of Wascana Pool into an outdoor aquatic “destination” began this June. The total cost of the project is expected to be $15.75 million, with $12 million from the provincial government through the Municipal Economic Enhancement Program. Holden says the new pool should be open to the public in the summer of 2023.

In June 2021, the Maple Leaf Pool celebrated its grand reopening, the result of a passionate community which wasn’t willing to give it up, a council willing to change its mind on a planned closure, and administration finding a way to make it work. The pool was estimated to cost $5.3 million to rebuild. It was approved through the city’s 2020 capital budget and mostly funded through the one-time Gas Tax Grant. Council approved an additional $880,000 in February 2020.

What else is in the works?

In April 2021, Regina Exhibition Association Limited (REAL), which operates the city-owned facilities at Evraz Place, released the Brandt Centre 2.0 report through its Arena Planning Strategy Committee (APSC). It was the first phase “in a process to develop a strategy for the future of the 44-year-old Brandt Centre.”

According to the report, the cost of a new multi-purpose arena that would meet the needs of the Regina community for the next 50 years is estimated to be approximately $100 million.

The next phase, which was approved by council in April, will include a “comprehensive economic impact assessment,” along with the exploration of potential sites (on and off the grounds at Evraz Place) and the development of a capital and operational model.

“The Brandt Centre is either going to have tens of millions of dollars spent on it (for renovations) … or you’re going to look at a new arena,” said Masters. “If you’re going to look at a new arena — how do you finance it? How do you make it feasible? There’s no question you would need participation from multiple levels of government.”

As part of REAL 2.0, the plan is to turn Evraz Place into a vibrant district that combines city facilities with private investment. The strategy includes the construction of an outdoor multi-use synthetic turf field between AffinityPlex and Mosaic Stadium. Through a phased approach, 5,000 seats would be added to the field, as well as a heated dome structure to allow for year-round practices.

In July, Tim Reid, president and CEO of REAL, estimated that the field would require a $5-million investment, plus $1 million for the dome. At that time, REAL had not yet determined the cost of seating.

A renewal of the Regina Public Library’s central branch is also on the books.

In February 2020, RPL board chair Sean Quinlan said the branch was experiencing several challenges, including a patched roof, boilers on the brink of breakdown, staff working out of the basement and a constant need for more space.

A 2011 feasibility study pegged renewal costs at somewhere between $60 and $70 million. Part of that study explored the idea of an expanded library building combined with several community and commercial partners — including potentially a hotel.

According to a statement on the RPL’s website, work on the renewal slowed down in 2020, as many projects did, due to the pandemic, but it was “starting to pick up speed once again” as of March 2021.

While the pandemic has had an impact on the city’s $100-million loan repayment for Mosaic Stadium, Holden says they are still on track and don’t expect it to directly limit movement on other major projects like those mentioned above.

Field of dreams

In April 2021, the Regina Red Sox and Living Sky Sports revealed concept plans for a new baseball stadium on the Dewdney Avenue rail-yard lands.

For some, the announcement and hype around the proposed diamond might make it seem like a sure thing. While the excitement over the idea is very real, the city says it has made no commitments.

In terms of recreation projects, it’s low on the priority list.

“This is a $20-25 million project,” Holden said. “It’s not a project that right now is in alignment with our Recreation Facility Plan and it’s not a project that would really fit in our recreation partnership program either.”

That’s not to say it isn’t important, he added, and wouldn’t drive economic activity in the city. But many questions remain, like how much money could the city afford to pitch in and where could it actually be built?

The city has had preliminary conversations with the Red Sox and Living Sky and is drafting a letter of intent to be presented to council in September or early October. The letter sets the stage for exploration into the idea, but makes no formal commitments, said Holden.

“We talk(ed) to the Red Sox and kinda (said): ‘Let’s be a little cautious that we’re not getting too far ahead of the process to determine whether we need it, where it will actually be located and what it will cost,’ ” said Holden.

The Red Sox currently have a petition posted on their website asking for signatures in support of a baseball diamond at the rail yards. The organization is also asking residents to show their support by recording a short video or selfie and posting it on social media with the hashtag #stadiumattherailyards, tagging the mayor, city councillors, friends and family.

Show me the money $$$

“Are all of these initiatives going to happen overnight? Absolutely not,” said Holden. “Whether it’s an aquatic centre, whether it’s a replacement for Brandt, whether it’s a ball diamond — those need to be prioritized.”

While some of those projects are moving forward, he said others are realistically going to take five to 10 years to come to fruition.

Timing and creativity are key.

The city is embracing sponsorship, naming rights and advertising more than it ever has and the opportunity to explore private investment to help fund major projects is always there, added Holden.

In 2019, the city undertook a management review which saved $3 million annually after some restructuring. That money now goes into a Recreation/Culture Capital Program every year.

The city also established a five-year dedicated mill rate increase to help fund recreation infrastructure, which Holden says helps the city start to make investments or put funds aside for important projects.

Regina could look at taking on more debt to fund some of the projects, but Holden says administration would caution council not to jeopardize the city’s current AAA debt rating.

“When you look at the useful life left on these (facilities), if we don’t come up with a plan, we will be spending millions to try and keep them open,” said Masters. “Proper planning, proper sequencing of the investment, proper placement and then those partnerships we’re going to look to, all those things have to be worked on over the course of time and so I’m excited about planning for them.”

While the list of projects is an exciting one, Masters said Regina is still playing catchup when it comes to recreational infrastructure. The city hasn’t invested substantially in the Lawson, the Brandt Centre, the library or a ball diamond since the ’70s, she said, making all these projects due at the same time.

The city is also not in a position to be all things to all people, emphasized Holden. But the list of recreation projects — or their priority order — is subject to change if the will of council does. Council could have a different perspective on Regina’s recreational needs since its members are the ones talking to residents.

“Fundamentally, at the end of the day, if we don’t get help on it, then that’s going to be a matter of, ‘Well, it’s probably not within the city’s means to do on our own,’ ” said Masters. “But to do proper planning and to do proper sequencing of infrastructure investment that would allow us to get ready for those projects, that’s important. That’s our job.”

 

 

Employee Guide – COVID-19

Please take a moment to read this guide and feel free to share it with your co-workers. This guide will be updated regularly to ensure you have the most up to date information.

For more employee information visit CityConnect. For health information visit the Ministry of Health website.

Novel Coronavirus will be referred to as COVID-19 throughout this guide.

https://www.regina.ca/export/sites/Regina.ca/about-regina/job-opportunities/.galleries/pdfs/COVID19-Employee-Guide.pdf