The BC Teachers’ Federation is urging its members to get vaccinated in advance of anticipated mandates around the province.
Teachers’ union president Teri Mooring wrote to members Oct. 7 to update them in the wake of Premier John Horgan’s announcement that school districts in B.C. are welcome to implement vaccine mandates for school staff. Horgan has so far declined to implement a provincewide mandate to that effect.
Mooring’s letter takes issue with that decision.
“At this point, I am very concerned that a potential vaccine mandate could be implemented district-by-district, employer-by-employer. That’s the wrong approach,” she wrote. “Any vaccine mandate would need to be provincially implemented and done equitably. We can’t have unequal treatment of workers in the public education system.”
Mooring’s letter notes the issue is on “rapidly shifting ground,” citing the vaccine mandates just announced for 30,000 B.C. government employees.
Mooring said that, in August, the BCTF executive committee discussed the issue of vaccine mandates and said it “would not oppose” a mandate for K-12 workers as long as privacy rights were protected and accommodations were available for those with medical exemptions.
The committee met again in the wake of Horgan’s announcement and took the position that it supports “provincial mandatory vaccines in the K-12 system for school staff and volunteers.”
“We don’t know what a mandate might look like or how it would be implemented, but it seems clear that it is coming. If you have not been vaccinated, please take steps now to start that process. Like vaccine mandates in other sectors, there could be consequences. Any exemptions will likely be extremely limited,” she said.
Mooring said the union and its locals will work to protect teachers’ rights, including the right to privacy and the right to accommodation for those with legitimate exemptions. She said the union will work with the BC Public School Employers’ Association to ensure that any process applied to members who refuse to get a vaccine is done fairly.
She urged those who aren’t vaccinated and who do not have a legitimate exemption to start planning now to get their shot.
“The best course of action for you is to get the vaccine. They are safe, effective, and will help all of us move on from this pandemic,” she said.