COVID-19: B.C. nurses’ union stance on vaccine mandate sparks uproar

Union executive’s opposition based on concern it could cause staff shortages during pandemic, to which mostly angry nurses react by firing back on social media

Article content

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix has said the percentage of vaccinated heath care workers would be higher than the provincial average, but he couldn’t provide data.
B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix has said the percentage of vaccinated heath care workers would be higher than the provincial average, but he couldn’t provide data. Photo by DON CRAIG /PNG

But most opposed the union position. Alison Jordan posted: “It seems to me that BCNU is leveraging a public health emergency to politicize the longstanding and chronic issue of staffing.”

“I’m not happy with the position (the union) took about vaccine mandates,” Mary Sollows told Postmedia. “They should have let it go to a vote for the members.”

She said “I am 100 per cent” worried about working next to unvaccinated coworkers.

Neither the union, Grewal nor Sorensen have returned multiple requests for comment. “I can let you know that BCNU will not be commenting further,” said a union staffer, who said he was not a spokesman and couldn’t be named in an email.

It’s unknown how many of the province’s 48,000 nurses are vaccinated, but about 80 per cent of B.C.’s population over the age of 12 is doubly vaccinated. Health Minister Adrian Dix has said the percentage of vaccinated health care workers would be higher than the provincial average, but he couldn’t provide data.

Article content

The Canadian Nurses Association, the Canadian Medical Association, Doctors of B.C. and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C. all support the mandatory vaccine. But doctors themselves, 97 per of whom are vaccinated, would be responsible to vaccinate if they worked in hospitals or other public health care settings, said the college and Doctors of B.C.

“I was appalled, just as I was appalled when they (the B.C. Nurses’ Union) opposed mandatory vaccination against the flu,” Craig Riddell, a UBC economics professor emeritus, said of the union’s position to not support the mandatory vaccine. “I just think they’re wrong.”

He said nurses have a moral responsibility to ensure the safety of the general public while working in public health and the union’s position will harm its reputation as a group that cares about the health and safety of its members and of the public.

The union likely faces a costly battle if it defends members’ rights not to vaccinate and he predicted a Charter of Rights challenge to oppose a mandatory policy would not win in the courts, he said.

“If I were a member, I would resign, I would give up my membership in protest,” he said. They would still be covered by the collective agreement, “but they could make a point. I would encourage a lot of union members to do that.”

slazaruk@postmedia.com


Get the latest COVID-19 news delivered to your inbox weeknights at 7 p.m. by subscribing to our newsletter here.


CLICK HERE to report a typo.

Is there more to this story? We’d like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email vantips@postmedia.com.

This website uses cookies and asks your personal data to enhance your browsing experience.