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Vaccination or termination only choices for Ontario Finnish Resthome workers: UNIFOR

The union says the policy is not being applied evenly because unvaccinated visitors are allowed
20210219 Fergus Sportsplex Vaccine Clinic KA 02
Kenneth Armstrong/Village Media file photo

The Ontario Finnish Resthome Association plans to terminate employees who have not received vaccinations by Nov. 8, says a union representing members who work there.

Many long-term care and retirement homes in the province are placing workers who declare they are unvaccinated on unpaid leave, but UNIFOR Local 1359 president Cathy Humalamaki said the Ontario Finnish Resthome Association (OFRA) has doubled down on its policy requiring staff to be vaccinated or face termination.

SooToday reached out to OFRA president Paul Belair on Friday, as well as through a general email to the organization on Wednesday, but did not receive a response.

OFRA’s four facilities in Sault Ste. Marie are home to about 440 residents, with a total of 186 staff members and 300 volunteers.

Humalamaki said the union supports the vaccination process in general, but is concerned that policies are not being applied evenly for staff and visitors to the home who choose not to be vaccinated.

According to its web site, OFRA requires indoor visitors to its Mauno Kaihla Koti LTC Nursing Home and Kotitalo Assisted Living Building facilities to show proof of vaccination or a submit to rapid antigen surveillance testing, but staff are not being given that option.

“My biggest concern is they are still allowing family members off the street to come in without vaccination — so if you are telling me you are going to terminate my employees because of a health risk — where does the health and safely of the employees stand when you are allowing family members in unvaccinated?” said Humalamaki. 

“I am not here to argue about the merit of the vaccination, we’re just trying to make sure that all policies are reasonable,” she added.

Humalamaki said she was told by OFRA that it could not prevent unvaccinated visitors from coming into its facilities.

”Yet in the beginning they didn’t allow any family members in, so it’s kind of a double standard,” she said.

The union has been told any staff who are not vaccinated by Nov. 8 will be terminated by OFRA. That is in contrast to other long-term care and retirement homes in the area that will allow unvaccinated workers to continue testing.

“We fully support people having their own choices — it’s their body, it’s their choice — the thing they have to understand is their choices come with consequences and we just have to make sure it’s fair and reasonable,” said Humalamaki of the people who have chosen not to receive vaccination.

“I believe the staff should have the choice, the same way they handled flu vaccinations. If they choose not to take it and there is an outbreak, absolutely don’t report to work,” said Humalamaki. “I don’t think it’s right that they are terminating. If this all blows over and in three years we don’t need it, they should be able to resume their jobs.”