After being forced onto unpaid leave last year for being unwilling to be vaccinated against COVID-19, hundreds of British Columbia government employees are now being fired for their stance despite numerous jurisdictions across Canada repealing COVID-19 restrictions.
The province of British Columbia is now the only province in Canada that has not announced an end to its vaccine policies while several other provinces have either dropped or announced the elimination of vaccine passport programs and vaccination mandates.
Government employees had until Oct. 26 last year to receive at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine or be placed on unpaid leave and risk losing their jobs. At the time, there were 126,343 health care workers under the mandate and 4,090 chose not to be vaccinated.
The termination of front line workers began on Feb. 21 when the Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health regions reported that 674 employees had been fired, True North reported.
The BC Public Service Employees for Freedom (BCPS), a group that advocates on behalf of employees affected by the mandate, had sought an end to the policy before employees were terminated arguing that “B.C. is now just one of a few provinces in Canada that will terminate public servants for not proving their COVID-19 vaccination status. Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba all honour their employees’ medical privacy and choice in this matter. They have determined that their employees can work safely without this requirement and we hope B.C. will allow public servants here to do the same,” however their pleas were ignored.
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British Columbia’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Bonnie Henry also announced on Feb. 9 that the province will be expanding the mandatory vaccination policy to include health-care providers in private practices including midwives, acupuncturists, chiropractors, and dentists among other health care professionals.
The firings come as B.C. hospitals continue to manage severe labor shortages. B.C. Health Minister, Adrian Dix, recently admitted that one week in January a staggering 27,937 shifts went unfilled.
The firings come as the ruling New Democratic Party (NDP) are poised to award cabinet ministers a 10 percent pay hike on their salaries that’s normally withheld when the provincial government posts a deficit budget which this government has.
Liberal house leader Todd Stone says while citizens of B.C. continue to struggle in the aftermath of the pandemic, Premier John Horgan and his cabinet ministers are giving themselves pay raises.
“Fighting unaffordability is not one of the priorities of this budget,” Stone said in the legislature. “But what was one of the priorities: making life more affordable for the premier and for NDP cabinet ministers.”