Unifor President Jerry Dias, who represents thousands of employees at the Detroit 3, 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 labor 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 3’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 percent” 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.