New Ontario emergency order affecting employers who provide mental health and addiction services (“Mental Health Agencies”), per Ontario’s Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act:
Mental Health Agencies now have broad discretion and flexibility to take “any reasonably necessary measure to respond to, prevent and alleviate the outbreak” of COVID-19 and “to respond to consequences arising from” COVID-19, including:
• redeploy staff within different locations, despite collective bargaining agreements;
• change the assignment of work, which can include assigning non-bargaining unit employees or contractors to perform bargaining unit work;
• change scheduling or shift assignments;
• defer or cancel vacations, absences or other leaves (regardless of whether such vacations, absences or leaves are established by statute, regulation, agreement or otherwise);
• employ extra staff (whether full time, part time, temporary, contractors, volunteers) to perform work, including bargaining unit work;
• provide training or education as needed to staff and volunteers to “achieve the purposes of a redeployment plan”;
• conduct “skills and experience inventories” to identify alternative roles for staff “in priority areas”; and
• collect information from staff about their availability to provide services including their health conditions or exposure to COVID-19.
These steps are permitted even if contrary to any collective bargaining agreements currently in effect.
If there were a grievance by a union, it is deemed to be suspended during Ontario’s State of Emergency.