5% of BC Ferries workers still unvaccinated despite vax mandate

As the mandatory vaccination deadline for on-board personnel approaches, 95% of BC Ferries staff have been fully vaccinated.

BC Ferries spokeswoman Deborah Marshall said this week that around 95% of staff had received both shots.

With a workforce of over 5,000, however, that leaves around 250 workers who have yet to take the hit.

Some ferry workers whose jobs are aboard ships have already been placed on unpaid leave after refusing to receive a first dose of the vaccine in November.

“Some people have been off work for 60 days,” said Eric McNeely, president of the BC Ferry and Marine Workers Union.

McNeely said that while “the vast majority” of its members “are vaccinated and are happy to make that choice,” some have yet to be convinced.

McNeely put the number of workers already furloughed at “less than 100”.

But the vaccine mandate, combined with workers falling ill with Omicron, as well as low numbers of casual workers to call, could lead to ship-crew issues, the ferry company has warned, which could lead to changes schedules or the cancellation of crossings on some. routes.

McNeely said the problem could be particularly acute in areas away from major terminals on the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island, places where the pool of personnel is much smaller.

All staff working on BC Ferries ships have been advised that they must be fully immunized by January 24. All other staff (including those working at the terminals) must be vaccinated by February 28.

Ferry workers learned they would have a vaccination mandate put in place, as a federally regulated industry, in early November. Those who do not comply have been told they will be placed on unpaid leave.

This week, BC Ferries warned that the impact of the vaccination mandate, combined with the illness of Omicron personnel and an ongoing labor shortage among qualified seafarers, could lead to difficulties for the crew of the ships in the weeks or even months to come.

Some sailings to Nanaimo from West Vancouver’s Horseshoe Bay terminal were canceled Tuesday, January 11 due to a lack of crew. On Monday (Jan. 10), four departures were also canceled on the route between Nanaimo’s Duke Point and Tsawwassen. There have also been cancellations on routes to Gabriola Island and Texada Island, Marshall said.

“We are seeing the illness affect employees in various positions across the fleet, and it is important that staff stay home if they are sick,” she said.

Due to Transport Canada regulations that require a particular number of crews with certain qualifications for each sailing, even the absence of a small number of crews can prevent a vessel from sailing.

BC Ferries said it plans to move staff between routes if necessary, adding that no routes are expected to be suspended altogether.

McNeely said ferry workers worked overtime to keep the system running.

Marshall said the company posts travel advisories on its website when anticipating schedule changes or cancellations.

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