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Court petitioned to stop termination of B.C. public servants who didn't comply with vaccine mandate

One of the four public servants was supposed to be fired but the process could take at least two weeks
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Victoria courthouse

A group of B.C. public servants filed an action in B.C. Supreme Court on Wednesday in the hopes of petitioning the court to stop their terminations over failing to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination.

Court documents say the four petitioners are non-union employees including management age 38 to 58 and are under contracts in four different government ministries. They have nearly 60 years of combined service with the provincial government. They were placed on unpaid leave.

The claim argues the vaccine policy changed the employees’ contract “without proper notice or agreement or their consent, in order to terminate them without any sort of due process or procedural fairness, for just cause.”

One of the four was due to be fired Wednesday but that process could take at least two weeks.

An employee group called B.C. Public Service Employees for Freedom says it has 450 members, including those in management roles. It says it was formed in the wake of the B.C Public Service Agency’s announcement on Oct. 5 that all employees must show proof of vaccination status.

The vaccine mandate took effect Nov. 1 and by Nov. 22 those who did not show proof of vaccination or were not approved for a medical exemption or other exemption were placed on three-months unpaid leave the next day.

“This action affects not just the four petitioners, but all B.C. public servants facing termination over the vaccine mandate,” the group said in a statement.

It said requests asking the province to reconsider have been rejected. They’ve asked to get their jobs back and back pay.

The group said it doesn’t understand why the B.C. Public Service is moving to terminate “dedicated public servants in this heavy-handed manner when the evidence shows the virus is becoming endemic and Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, P.E.I., Northwest Territories and Nunavut do not require their public servants to prove they have been fully vaccinated to continue working.”

As of Feb. 15, only B.C., New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Yukon had vaccine mandates in place for their public servants, the group said.

The petitioners’ lawyer, Umar Sheikh of Crease Harman LLP, said many steps are needed to correct what he calls an imminent and irreparable injustice.

“Creating two classes of Canadians and dividing us further is certainly not the answer,” he said in a news release.

The Public Service Agency says about 98 per cent of just over 38,000 employees showed proof of partial or full vaccination, leaving about 400 who did not.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com