Windsor will require vaccination for city employees

City council approved the measure, despite opposition from a string of employee representatives.

Windsor Star 4 minute read September 17, 2021

Windsor city council approved a controversial mandatory vaccine policy for all municipal workers Thursday night, despite opposition from a string of employee representatives.

“We’re still in crisis mode,” Ward 1 Coun. Fred Francis said during a special meeting called to address the issue.

“Nobody wants to do this. But this is something we have to do.”

City of Windsor employees have until Nov. 15 to either provide proof that they are fully vaccinated or obtain a valid accommodation under human rights legislation.

Employees who fail to fulfil one of those requirements will be placed on unpaid leave. The new rules also apply to contractors and volunteers.

Human resources head Vincenza Mihalo told council that 1,200 employees have responded to a survey asking about vaccination status, with 83 per cent stating they are fully vaccinated.

A policy report from city staff said plans for human rights accommodations will be developed on a case-by-case basis and may require regular testing. Philosophical, personal, moral, ethical and political objections are not protected under the Human Rights Code, the report stated.


St. Clair College, the University of Windsor, local hospitals and the County of Essex have similar policies.

Municipalities that already have policies in place threatening unpaid leave or termination for unvaccinated employees include the County of Essex, Kingsville, Greater Sudbury, Ottawa, York, London, Oakville and Toronto.

The City of Windsor protocol is set for one year, but council has the power to extend it. Councillors voted unanimously in favour of the new requirements.

“There is too much at risk,” said Ward 6 Coun. Jo-Anne Gignac. “The policy we have looked at thoroughly is reflective of what is needed in the community.”

Delegates from the Windsor Professional Firefighters Association, Civic Association of Non-Union Employees (CANUE) and CUPE urged councillors to implement regular testing protocols instead of mandatory vaccinations.

“There should be an option for people choosing not to vaccinate,” said CUPE Local 82 president Rob Kolody.

“We absolutely believe there should be some form of testing.”

Kris Matton, president of the Windsor Professional Firefighters Association, agreed that regular testing is a “proven option.”

“Knowing if a person is carrying the virus is the best evidence for stopping transmission,” he said.

“To not address this option, I do believe without a doubt, is a poor decision.”

Gayle Jones, president of the Civic Association of Non-Union Employees (CANUE), asked council to defer a decision for more input. She said the city already has staffing issues that the vaccination policy will only compound.

“We don’t want to see our members fail,” said Jones.

David Petten, president of CUPE Local 543, called for a more “robust” education program to highlight the importance of vaccines. He said members afraid to get vaccinated have called him “crying on the phone” because they think they’re going to lose their jobs.

“It does not really feel like a choice for people living paycheque to paycheque, as some of my members do,” he said.

The new policy does include vaccine promotion and education programs to “help inform those who might be vaccine-hesitant.”

But Francis said the time to rely solely on education is over.

“Testing and vaccinations are not the same thing,” he said.

“We’ve had 18 months of education. Eighteen months. I don’t know what another eight weeks will do.”

Ward 2 Coun. Fabio Costante said he respects that there is opposition to such mandates, but added vaccination is the “most effective way for us to mitigate the virus.”

“That weights a lot on me, more than finding a balance that is less intrusive,” he said.

Ward 3 Coun. Rino Bortolin shared that opinion, stating “vaccines are the only way out of this.”

“This isn’t going away any time soon,” he said. “But we need action now.”