The Detroit Three automakers will require all employees, contractors and visitors at their Canadian facilities be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 — and show proof — beginning later this year.
Stellantis, General Motors and Ford each issued statements Thursday, announcing the policy change.
Stellantis will require proof of vaccination beginning Dec. 17 while GM will require proof starting Dec. 12. Ford didn’t immediately say when the new rules will take effect.
“We are joining many other companies, from multiple sectors, supporting public-health initiatives to increase vaccination rates and further reduce the impact of COVID-19 across Canada,” GM Canada said in its statement. “Vaccination has been shown to be effective in reducing the transmission of the virus as well as reducing the health impacts if a vaccinated person does contract the virus.”
Stellantis in its statement said a vaccine mandate is “in the best interest of employee health and safety.”
“Since vaccines have become available, Stellantis has continued to strongly advocate for our employees to get vaccinated as the best way to protect against the transmission and reduce the severity of the illnesses associated with COVID-19,” Stellantis said.
Ford said, “the health and safety of our workforce is our top priority.”
GM Canada said exemptions and accommodations “will be rare and will be evaluated on an individual basis.”
No company explained what would happen to employees who refuse the vaccine.
Unifor President Jerry Dias, who represents thousands of employees at the Detroit Three, fully supports vaccine mandates.
Dias said the union wasn’t consulted on the policy, but he’s not bothered by that. He quoted Unifor lawyers as saying that companies imposing mandatory vaccine policies are within their right to do so. Dias said unvaccinated employees “may be putting their jobs at risk.”
“If they in fact refuse, and they are terminated, an arbitrator may very well uphold the termination,” Dias said. “Workers need to know that.
“I’m not a labour leader who says, 'tell the company to go pound salt and we’ll fight it and you’re good and blah blah blah.' At the end of the day…if they get terminated, I don’t want any member coming to me and saying ‘hey, you told me I’m good and now I’m fired.’”
Dias said the Detroit Three’s decision didn’t come as a surprise.
“The bottom line is that we’re only going to get through this health crisis when people are vaccinated,” he said. “We have many members…that are very nervous going to work with people who aren’t vaccinated.”
Dias estimates that “probably 90 per cent” of Unifor members in the auto industry are already vaccinated.
Unifor Local 444 President Dave Cassidy, who represents Stellantis workers at the automaker’s minivan plant in Windsor, Ont., called it “the most divisive issue we’ve ever dealt with.”
“This is a tough issue for some,” he said, adding, “I’ve received a lot of messages from people who support this.”
“If you don’t want to get vaccinated, that’s your choice. With choices, sometimes there are consequences, [including] discharge.”
In the U.S., GM and Ford Motor Co. have told salaried employees to report their vaccination status, but neither has required employees to get the jab. Unionized automakers would have to negotiate with the UAW to take similar action on hourly workers.
Stellantis -- the former Fiat Chrysler Automobiles -- said it has "continued to strongly advocate for our employees to get vaccinated," the automaker's U.S. unit said in an e-mailed statement.
"As part of our protocol, all U.S. employees have been asked to self-certify their vaccination status since spring. We are continuing to monitor the situation and, in partnership with the UAW, evaluating additional actions to take in the best interest of employee health and safety.