GM Canada Tells Unvaccinated Workers to Stay Home, Union Unhelpful


cami assembly factory

Unvaccinated workers from General Motors’ CAMI Assembly Plant have been removed from the facility and forced into unpaid leave. The automaker had a deadline set for December 12th to have all employees vaccinated, with Unifor previously having urged the company to postpone the date. The Western world has seen a surge of citizens protesting vaccine mandates this year, with Canadian unions conducting more than a few of their own. Though several organizers have said they’re operating independently due to a shared belief that Unifor was offering insufficient support to members and was effectively siding with automakers. 

“Whether you want to get vaccinated or you don’t want to get vaccinated, this should just be a choice, not only for just the auto sector, but for every human being,” said Sebastian Giorgi, a member of Unifor Local 1285 who organized a rally in November.

Despite there being a deluge of protests between August and December, General Motors has adhered to its deadline of December 12th. From now on, automotive workers will need to have proof of vaccination or be sent home — something more than a few people learned about first hand on Monday.

While we don’t have an official tally, Mike Van Boekel (Unifor chairperson for the Ingersoll, Ontario, automotive facility) told Automotive News that he assumed there were at least 100 employees from CAMI that weren’t vaccinated last week.

From Automotive News:

Though the vaccine mandate went forward unaltered for unvaccinated staff, the union secured “quite a few” changes from GM, including a last-minute reprieve for members who have received only one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, Van Boekel told members in a Dec. 9 update. With the changes, workers with a single dose will be allowed to continue working, but will eventually need to prove they are fully vaccinated, he said.

When introduced in October, GM’s policy required personnel entering any of the automaker’s Canadian facilities to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 12.

GM Canada would not comment on the details of its policy for CAMI or its wider network of Canadian facilities, but said the “overwhelming majority” of the company’s workers have met the requirements.

“For those who are not compliant, GM Canada is working with them individually to develop a reasonable plan to become fully vaccinated, to secure an approved exemption, or to make other employment arrangements,” the company told Automotive News Canada in an email.

As union victories go, that’s about as pathetic as negotiating an extra shake at the urinal for unpaid bathroom brakes. But since Unifor members are now openly claiming the union seems to represent little more than a buffer between automakers and staff, I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised here. Van Boekel even goes on to endorse the automaker’s plan later in his interview.

“Don’t get me wrong, I do think the vaccination policy is the correct plan, but there could have been other options that they used,” he said. Then he criticized the “double standard” of GM not enacting a similar policy for thousands of hourly workers in the United States while adding “[That’s] likely the biggest slap in the face,” he added.

GM Canada will begin doing random spot checks on employees to ensure their vaccination status is up to date starting in January. Van Boekel said that it’s the union’s assumption that the company will also begin trying to eliminate the Local 88 members that were told to stay home from CAMI, noting that there wouldn’t be much Unifor could do to help. Employees caught falsifying their documents or lying to GM will be terminated right away, however.

“If you falsified your answer, you are going to be terminated and I do not have much of an answer for you in terms of a grievance. So, make sure your answers are correct,” Van Boekel the weasel explained, adding that there would be little hope of Canadian law helping them.

Stellantis’ plans on enforcing similar rules for Canada-based employees starting December 17th, whereas Ford workers are required to be vaccinated by January 3rd.

We’ve certainly come a long way from “two weeks to slow the spread.” But you should all know my bias on the issue by now, as I’ve been obnoxiously vocal on the matter. This is a grotesque overreach in authority by governments and employers seem more than content to comply. Van Boekel may not be aware of this, but the reason he’s so annoyed that America didn’t follow Canada down this authoritarian rabbit hole was due to states filing legal challenges to similar rules enacted by the Biden administration. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals then ruled against the plan, citing “grave statutory and constitutional” issues.

[Image: General Motors]

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