Detroit automakers to require vaccination for employees in Canada

Breana Noble
The Detroit News

Detroit's three automakers said Thursday they will require Canadian employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

The mandates do not affect U.S. operations. General Motors Co.'s requirement includes visitors to its facilities in Canada starting Dec. 12. Stellantis NV's requirement affects employees, contractors, service provider workers and visitors to its Canadian sites. That goes into effect Dec. 17.

Workers build the 2019 Chrysler Pacifica at then FCA Windsor Assembly on October 5, 2018 in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. Now it is a Stellantis plant that will be covered by the automaker's vaccination mandate for Canadian employees.

Ford Motor Co. also will require salaried and hourly workers in Canada to get the vaccine, spokeswoman Laura More said in a statement, noting that "vaccination plays a critical role in combating the virus." An effective date was not immediately available.

Exemptions and accommodations will be rare and will be evaluated on an individual basis, GM said in a news release. Proof of vaccination will be submitted through a confidential reporting tool.

"We are joining many other companies, from multiple sectors, supporting public-health initiatives to increase vaccination rates and further reduce the impact of COVID-19 across Canada," GM said in the news release. "Vaccination has been shown to be effective in reducing the transmission of the virus as well as reducing the health impacts if a vaccinated person does contract the virus."

Stellantis employees may seek medical or religious exemptions on a case-by-case basis. Proof of vaccination will be required to enter its sites in accordance to recommendations from the Ministry of Health. The action is "in the best interest of employee health and safety," according to a news release.

"Since vaccines have become available, Stellantis has continued to strongly advocate for our employees to get vaccinated as the best way to protect against the transmission and reduce the severity of the illnesses associated with COVID-19," the company added.

Employees who don't comply could face "severe" consequences, including but not limited to termination of employment, spokeswoman LouAnn Gosselin said in an email.

Canadian autoworkers union Unifor is requiring its 425 employees to be vaccinated by Nov. 4. Unifor President Jerry Dias told The Detroit News the union was made aware of the automakers' unilateral decisions.

"They didn't ask for our input," he said. "We’re not sitting down with employers to create a joint strategy. The bottom line is it is up to individual employers to make their decisions, and we will react accordingly."

In this case, Dias said Unifor will be upfront with its members: "Our lawyers said to us, 'If employers implement a mandatory vaccination policy, it’s expected that if people are terminated, and it goes to arbitration, the company’s position will be upheld. You'd better be careful what you say. You don’t want to create this false impression everything will be fine.'"

Unifor's policy is in contrast to the United Auto Workers union, which has advocated that the shot and the disclosure of vaccination status remain voluntary for its members, though it has encouraged members to get vaccinated. The Detroit-based union also is a part of joint task forces with the automakers to discuss health and safety protocols.

The automakers have not implemented vaccine mandates in the United States. GM and Ford have requested that U.S. salaried employees disclose their status. A question regarding vaccination status is included in Stellantis' questionnaire for people entering its sites.

President Joe Biden last month ordered the U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration to write up an emergency rule that is estimated to require about 100 million federal employees, health-care workers and private-sector employees at companies employing more than 100 people to get the vaccine. The private-sector employees also would have the option to get tested weekly. OSHA on Tuesday sent the initial text of the rules to the White House for approval.

Meanwhile, the U.S. is expected to lift travel restrictions for vaccinated, nonessential travelers from Canada and Mexico starting next month. Canada lifted its travel ban on vaccinated Americans in August.

Twitter: @BreanaCNoble

Staff Writers Jordyn Grzelewski and Kalea Hall contributed.