Home Regular Contributors David MacLean Manufacturers Grappling with Pandemic Policies

Manufacturers Grappling with Pandemic Policies

David McLean

At the tail end of summer, Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME) asked members across Canada about the most controversial issue facing business in 2021: should employers implement vaccine requirements for employees and visitors to their businesses?

The results came back in early September and revealed a sizeable majority – 69 per cent – supported vaccine mandates to protect employees and their families. Here in Alberta, support for vaccine passports was a little lower but still strong at 55 per cent.

However, when asked if manufacturers had actually implemented vaccine mandates, less than a quarter said they had. Those who oppose “vaccine passports” feel strongly about it. This is a tricky issue.

Alberta manufacturers are doing incredible work ensure the health and safety of their workers and try to survive the pandemic and a litany of other challenges facing industry in 2021.

Edmonton-based All Weather Windows has pulled out all the stops to manage the impact of COVID-19 on their business and their employees:

  • Implemented mask requirements in advance of public health orders
  • Moved 30 per cent of their workforce to remote work status
  • Developed emergency protocols to address outbreak scenarios
  • Adopted contact tracing software for rapid response
  • Staggered shifts to allow for greater physical distancing
  • Developed supports to help employees navigate quarantine periods
  • Brought in mobile vaccination units to specific work locations (with excellent uptake by employees)
  • Held a prize draw for employees who are fully vaccinated

The result? All Weather Windows had no positive cases in the first 210 days of the pandemic. Despite having nearly 1,000 employees, they experienced very few cases and no outbreaks so far. The company attributes their success to frontline employees and supervisors who made it happen.

“Health and safety doesn’t start and stop at the doors to the site, it’s part of every day life,” said Human Resources and Safety Vice President Sean Casault. “We’re incredibly proud of them and their efforts.”

There are similar success stories across the province. Now, many grapple with the question of whether to implement vaccine mandates on employees. Companies worry about losing vaccine hesitant workers to businesses who may not adopt such policies. They worry about legal risks, privacy concerns and overall employee morale.

We passed along these concerns when Premier Kenney held a series of virtual town hall meetings across the province asking business leaders to adopt vaccine mandates in the workplace to drive vaccination rates up and stamp out the pandemic. His message was strengthened when he adopted such a policy for his own staff and MLAs as well as for the broader public service.

The best course of action is for the entire private sector to adopt vaccine mandates. It’s unfair for some businesses to risk losing workers because they chose strong action on vaccines to the benefit of those who haven’t. The sooner we all get on the same page on health and safety, the sooner we can stop talking about the pandemic and focus once again on growth.

Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME) is the voice of Canadian manufacturing. CME represents more than 2,500 companies who account for an estimated 82 per cent of manufacturing output and 90 per cent of Canada’s exports.