OTTAWA (Reuters) -Canada will soon crack down on COVID-19 mandates, forcing banks, telecommunications companies and all other federally regulated workspaces to ensure their employees are inoculated, Ottawa said on Tuesday.
Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan made the announcement two months after the government said it would oblige the public sector and employees working in the federally regulated air, rail and marine transportation sectors to get their shots.
“Making vaccination mandatory across all federally regulated workplaces will protect workers, their families, and their communities,” O’Regan said in a statement. The new regulations would come into effect in early 2022.
The ruling Liberals had initially promised to help most federally regulated sectors with vaccinations.
But they are now taking a firmer line. Data show that almost 15% of Canadians above the age of 12 are not fully vaccinated yet at a time when the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus is starting to spread.
Toronto-Dominion Bank and Bank of Montreal both have softer policies that allow regular testing for workers who missed their Oct. 31 inoculation deadline.
Michelle Johnston, O’Regan’s chief spokeswoman, declined to answer directly when asked whether Ottawa was acting because of unhappiness about the number of employees in the banking and telecommunications sectors who had been inoculated.
“I think it’s safe to say that we’re just using the tools that we have in our tool box…We need to do everything we can,” she said by phone.
O’Regan noted that many employers had already made vaccination mandatory. There are approximately 18,500 employers in federally regulated industries which together employ 955,000 people, about 6% of all employees in Canada.
Federal health data show that as of Nov 27, 86.4% of people aged 12 and over were fully vaccinated.
(Reporting by David LjunggrenEditing by Paul Simao and Mark Heinrich)