Worksite Vaccination at Cargill

401 talks about vaccinations

President Thomas Hesse (centre) and Secretary Treasurer Richelle Stewart (left) talk with Dr. Annalee Coakley (right) about vaccinations at a union telephone town hall meeting.

Vaccines have emerged as one of the most talked-about topics in 2021. And your union has been front and centre in that discussion, advocating for the needs of our members as we enter the second year of the global pandemic and a third wave characterized by frightening variants.

Our members have told us what they think about vaccines loud and clear. They have told us that no one should be forced to take a vaccine and that vaccination must not be a condition of employment.

But 85% of our members have also told us that they want early access to safe vaccination.

So we’ve been pushing to protect our members’ rights to choose whether they get vaccinated. Our negotiators have sought to get commitments from employers on voluntary vaccination written into union contracts to ensure our members’ rights are explicitly protected.

And our advocacy achieved the goal of getting priority access to safe vaccination for meat plant workers in April. Alberta Health Services indicates that those workers will now have access to vaccination as soon as Alberta’s doctors will.

But there’s another development.

For some time, we’ve been working closely with some amazing Alberta doctors. They are people of care, compassion, and integrity who value and fight for social justice. Two of those doctors, Dr. Annalee Coakley and Dr. Gabriel Fabreau, are tireless advocates for refugee rights and have been keeping essential workers at the forefront of public health discussions.

We are so appreciative of Dr. Coakley and Dr. Fabreau’s incredible work. We also value the opportunity we’ve had to partner and collaborate with Gabe and Annalee on the needs of our members and positive public health outcomes in Alberta.

Today, it was announced that vaccination opportunities will be coming to essential workers at their job sites. Worksite vaccination, an initiative championed by doctors Coakley and Fabreau, will start at Cargill where workers will soon have the opportunity to receive the Pfizer vaccine at work.

Learn more here in today’s Globe and Mail article on the issue.

This is a major victory. Local 401 has been calling on public officials to understand COVID-19 as a workplace disease, and we’ve consistently pushed for a vaccine prioritization for our members.

And we’re not going to stop.

We hope that worksite vaccination goes well at Cargill. We will continue working with our doctor allies to bring their priority worksite vaccination approach to other workplaces as soon as possible.

Read about our advocacy on vaccine access in this CTV article.

Whether it is other food processing plants, retail grocery stores, Oil Sands camps in the North, or any other worksites where people, through no fault of their own, are exposed to COVID-19 and variant risks, this proactive approach to vaccination needs to be implemented. Workers should not be left to face terrifying risks simply because they need to make a living by performing the noble work of providing critical services to Albertans.

Our members deserve better, and we won’t stop fighting until that’s exactly what they get.