Windsor Police Association moves forward with arbitration ‘right now’ despite forced lifting of vaccination mandate

The union that represents Windsor police officers plans to move forward with an upcoming arbitration hearing centered on the police force’s vaccination mandate, although the policy has already been dropped.

“There is a grievance that was filed some time ago. That date is still scheduled for later this month. At this time, the association’s position is to move forward with this grievance,” Windsor Police Association president Shawn McCurdy said Friday.

Late last year, the Windsor Police Services Board implemented a proof-of-vaccination policy that required anyone who did not comply to take unpaid leave. At the time, about two percent of military personnel were affected by the directive.

But at a closed meeting on Thursday, the policy was suspended.

While all WPS members can now return to the workplace, McCurdy – who actively fought against the mandate which took effect in November 2021 – said the aim of arbitration would now be to make workers as “whole” as possible.

“These members were absent, without pay. Their benefits were suspended. So, in our opinion, there were breaches of the collective agreement,” he said.

McCurdy refrained from providing a dollar amount when asked if the union would seek back wages for workers placed on unpaid leave. But he added that the grievance will take into account previous arbitration decisions involving other unions.

Last month, an arbitrator ruled that Stellantis should lift its vaccination mandate for workers at its Windsor and Brampton assembly plants.

At the time, the arbitrator ruled that while the company’s vaccine mandate was reasonable when it was implemented in October 2021, it was no longer the case in June 2022.

“As we move forward, those things will come into play,” McCurdy said, adding that the union still needs to “strategize” before determining whether to move forward with arbitration on July 25.

“We have yet to speak with our legal counsel and the WPA Board of Directors.”

On Thursday, Acting Windsor Police Chief Jason Bellaire told CTV News the council made the decision to lift the warrant based on an “assessment of the current state of the pandemic.”

This week, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Kieran Moore, said the province is in the midst of a seventh wave, with the test positivity rate hitting its highest level since May.

In a follow-up call on Friday, Bellaire said new recruits should be vaccinated against COVID-19 despite the warrant being dropped — but would not comment on the ongoing arbitration.

CTV News has also reached out to Windsor Police Services Board Chairman Drew Dilkens. He asked that all comments on this matter be referred to the Chief Constable.

Andrew B. Reiter