Thursday, June 20, 2024

“It’s as though they are trying to drive us insane” says police officer sent home without pay over COVID mandate

Police officers sent home in November did not have access to benefits including mental health services. Photo: TPS

“It’s as though they are trying to drive us insane – to make us crazy,” says a Toronto police officer who was sent home without pay last November because he declined to comply with the force’s COVID-19 mandate.

“How do they have the authority to do this – send us home, call us back, tell us we are responsible for our own pension contributions? This period of time has cost me $80,000!” the officer exclaims. “Now we are being called back like nothing happened.”

(The officer is a source well-known to Road Warrior News; however, we have opted to withhold his name out of concern for his future employment situation.)

The officer provided Road Warrior News with a copy of the letter sent by Toronto Police Services which is dated June 2nd but arrived the week of June 13th. The letter indicates that “effective June 21st, the Service will rescind the Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccination Requirement (the ‘Vaccine Requirement’) for current members of the Service.

“As of the date of this correspondence, Service records indicate that you are currently on unpaid absence as a result of non-compliance with the Vaccination Requirement.

“As a result of the rescinding of the Vaccination Requirement, your current unpaid absence from work will continue up to and including June 20, 2022, at which point your unpaid absence will end and you will be required to report for duty on June 21st, 2022 as directed by your Unit Commander.”

“But wait, it gets even crazier,” the officer points out. “This letter, the letter they are sending to officers who got laid off from the jobs they love and the communities they’ve dedicated their lives to, tells us all where and how to get vaccinated for COVID-19. As though, although we were willing to risk our jobs, our finances, our homes and our families last November, NOW we will opt to get vaccinated? Now that we know we mean nothing to the Toronto Police Service, we will risk our health on an untested vaccine to go back?

“Why would they ‘rescind the Vaccine Requirement’ and tell us where to get vaccinated in the same letter?”

In fact, about one third of the letter is dedicated to providing vaccine information: “There are a number of opportunities to get vaccinated through Toronto Public Health, including with the new, protein-based, non-mRNA Novavax COVID-19 vaccine.”

Toronto Police Association is working to find a resolution to the situation, as president Jon Reid said in an email to Road Warrior News: “The Toronto Police Association has consistently advocated on behalf of all its members throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Our priority has always been, and continues to be, a solution that is in the best interest of our members and protects the negotiated entitlements and practices in our collective agreements.

“We have been resolute in our focus on our members return to active duty and we are pleased the Service has rescinded its policy. However, this decision by the Service was made independently of the ongoing arbitration discussions and did not address any of the collateral issues we continue to pursue on behalf of the membership.”

Reid notes that “On Friday, June 17, the TPA and TPS concluded the third and final day of mediated arbitration before Arbitrator Jessie Nyman.  Through the first stage of this process the TPA was able to achieve an interim mediated resolution on three important issues in dispute, including retroactive pay through vacation and lieu banks back to May 24 (2022); reinstated group health and dental benefits; and promotion eligibility.

“Remaining issues under our policy grievance, including the reasonability of the mandatory vaccine policy and retroactive compensation (pay, pension contributions, seniority, etc.), will be argued before Arbitrator Nyman in a final hearing date on November 3, 2022.”

“When we got sent home in November, our benefits were cancelled along with our paycheques,” the officer says, “which meant that despite all the stress we were under at exactly that point in time, we could not access any programs for our mental health. All of this was enough to drive anyone crazy, I thought at the time, but to receive this letter now – calling us back as though nothing happened, telling us we are responsible for our own pension contributions, telling us the Vaccine Requirement has been rescinded and then telling us where we can go to get vaccinated – they have to be TRYING to drive us crazy.

“This has to be intentional. There can be no other explanation.”

At time of posting, the Toronto Police Service has not replied to Road Warrior News’ phone or email messages.

In a related story, employees at Purolator Courier, which is 91% owned by Canada Post, are preparing to sue their employer for similar actions taken during COVID-19.