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Arbitrator finds Purolator’s termination of employees who declined COVID vaccines was unjust

Purolator has been ordered to provide compensation to employees who were “terminated” for not receiving a COVID-19 vaccine after nearly a year of arbitration, a Teamsters union has announced.

Arbitrator Nicholas Glass, in a Dec. 14 decision, has ordered Purolator to compensate members of Teamsters Local Union No. 31 in Prince George, B.C., for any lost wages and benefits between Jan. 1, 2022, and their first day of work following May 1, 2023.

“The COVID-19 policy at Purolator Inc. was called into question by the union, and the company was found to have unjustly terminated the employment of owner-operators and placed hourly members on unpaid leave who refused to get vaccinated with a COVID-19 vaccine,” said Local 31 president Stan Hennessy in a Dec. 18 letter to members.
Purolator introduced a policy on Sept. 15, 2021, requiring employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Nov. 1, 2021. Employees who did not comply with the policy or qualify for an exemption were placed on unpaid leave as of Jan. 10, 2022.

Lawyer Leighton Grey sent the company a cease-and-desist letter on April 25, 2022, arguing that the vaccines were experimental, had no long-term safety data, did not stop the spread of the virus, and could cause severe side effects.

In response, Purolator counsel Simon-Pierre Paquette said on April 26 that the claims in Grey’s letter were “factually inaccurate,” and that the company’s mandate was enacted in compliance with “all applicable legislation” and would not be done away with.

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A lawsuit was then filed against the company in May by hundreds of unionized and non-unionized employees seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in punitive damages.

Purolator suspended its COVID-19 vaccine mandate on April 13, 2023, and asked employees who had been placed on unpaid leave to return to work by May 1. The announcement came the same day that Mr. Grey discontinued the lawsuit against the company, telling the Epoch Times that it had run into a “procedural brick wall” due to several Supreme Court of Canada decisions denying plaintiffs access to the courts if they are in a union.


Mr. Hennessy said that while the union did not dispute the fact that COVID-19 vaccines were initially effective at preventing COVID-19 infection in the summer and fall of 2021, their usefulness had significantly waned by the time the Omicron variant of the disease was circulating in early 2022.

“The arbitrator upheld this argument in part and concluded that by June 30, 2022, the Purolator mandate was unreasonable,” the letter reads. “Hourly employees should therefore receive compensation for lost wages after that date.”

According to Mr. Hennessy, the arbitrator also found Purolator “acted improperly” when denying owner-operators, who had been placed on a leave of absence, the opportunity to use relief drivers to cover their routes. Those employees should receive compensation for lost income from January 2022 until their work return to work in May 2023, the arbitrator ruled.

Mr. Hennessy said the exact payouts owned to each employee were still being worked out between the union and Purolator. He noted that the company had filed three unsuccessful court applications to attempt to stop the arbitration process in the past, so “it is not impossible it will try again to challenge the outcome in court.”

“While we are very pleased with this result, a very great amount of work has gone into achieving it and quite possibly more work will be required to get cheques in the hands of the affected members,” he said.

Purolator did not respond to the Epoch Times’ request for comment by publication time.

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