In Watson v CUPE and Air Canada ( 2022 CIRB 1002) an unanimous decision of the Canada Industrial Relations Board dealt with a complaint by a member of the bargaining unit who claimed that the unions’ refusal to advance policy grievance against Air Canada’s mandatory vaccine policy was arbitrary .
Here is the Tribunal’s rationale
3. Balancing the Interests of Members
 The Board has repeatedly stated that it is not necessarily a breach of the DFR when a union makes a decision that favours one group of employees over another (see McRaeJackson; and Crispo, 2010 CIRB 527). Unions routinely make difficult decisions that require balancing the interests of various groups amongst its membership. This is true in collective bargaining and in the decisions to present grievances.
 The complainant asserts that the union ignored the concerns and interests of approximately 10 percent of the members in the bargaining unit, who will bear the consequences of the policy. She maintains that the union acted in bad faith as it adopted a dismissive attitude and did not inquire sufficiently or communicate with those members who raised questions or concerns with respect to the mandatory vaccination policy.
 In the context of this policy, there is no doubt that those members who choose not to be vaccinated or not to disclose their vaccination status will be impacted differently than those who comply with the policy. However, the duty that is imposed on the union does not mean that it has the obligation to pursue every grievance or to intervene in every situation where an individual employee’s interests are affected; it means that the union must consider the interests of all members of the bargaining unit and act fairly. The Supreme Court of Canada made the following comments in Gendron v. Supply and Services Union of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, Local 50057,  1 S.C.R. 1298:
The principles set out in Gagnon clearly contemplate a balancing process. As is illustrated by the situation here, a union must in certain circumstances choose between conflicting interests in order to resolve a dispute. Here the union’s choice was clear due to the obvious error made in the selection process. The union had no choice but to adopt that position that would ensure the proper interpretation of the collective agreement. In a situation of conflicting employee interests, the union may pursue one set of interests to the detriment of another as long as its decision to do so is not actuated by any of the improper motives described above, and as long as it turns its mind to all the relevant considerations. The choice of one claim over another is not in and of itself objectionable. Rather, it is the underlying motivation and method used to make this choice that may be objectionable.
 In this case, the union supported vaccination generally as an effective means of ensuring the health and safety of its members. Even if this position by the union is in opposition to certain members’ views, this, in and of itself, is not sufficient to find the union in breach of its DFR. In the current pandemic, there is overwhelming scientific evidence of the effectiveness of vaccines in the effort to eradicate COVID-19. Health authorities across Canada have stated that vaccination is one of the most effective ways to prevent severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID‑19.
 As Arbitrator Stout stated in Electrical Safety Authority:
 I note that this case is not about the merits of being vaccinated or the effectiveness of COVID‑19 vaccines. The science is clear that the COVID-19 vaccines currently being used are safe and effective at reducing the likelihood of becoming seriously ill or dying from this horrible disease. Moreover, vaccinating the population is necessary in order to secure the fragile healthcare system and eventually put this pandemic behind us.
 The complainant and other members may be opposed to vaccination, but the scientific evidence overwhelmingly points to vaccination as the most effective tool to get us past these unprecedented global circumstances. The union took a stance that is aligned with this evidence. A large majority of the membership supports the vaccination policy, as is demonstrated by the high vaccination rate amongst the employees in the bargaining unit. There is simply no evidence to suggest that the union acted in bad faith in adopting a position that supports and favours vaccination for its members.
 The complainant suggests that the union failed to consult with those members that opposed the policy and that it did not provide a rationale for not advancing their concerns through the grievance procedure. However, the union is not obliged to consult each and every member when assessing whether to challenge an employer policy that impacts the membership in different ways. In a case involving a mandatory Hepatitis A vaccination policy, the British Columbia Labour Relations Board dismissed an employee’s allegation that the union had acted arbitrarily or in bad faith because it had not consulted with the membership prior to engaging in discussions with the employer. The Board agrees with the following reasoning in Gordon v. Hotel, Restaurant & Culinary Employees & Bartenders Union, Local 40, BCLRB No. B138/2004; 2004 CanLII 65459 (Gordon):
Gordon also suggests that the Union discussions with the Employer about the mandatory inoculation program were improper because employees were not consulted. As the exclusive bargaining agent, part of the Union’s job in representing employees is to engage in discussions with the Employer regarding workplace issues: see, for instance, Section 53 of the Code. While consultation with employees over changes in working conditions such as occurred at the Capri is encouraged, it is not necessarily a requirement under the Code. As long as the Union does not act in a way that is arbitrary, discriminatory or in bad faith the duty of fair representation is not breached. In this case, the Union satisfied itself that the Employer’s actions were reasonable and legally permissible, and it ensured that employees were permitted the exceptions available to them by law. In the circumstances, I do not find that the Union’s agreement to the program or its failure to consult employees beforehand supports a breach of Section 12.
 Although CUPE ACC did not engage in individual discussions with the complainant, it did communicate regularly with the membership to provide status updates in what was and continues to be a rapidly changing environment. Through these communications, the union made it clear that it was aware of the different views on the issue of vaccination. It was also aware of the complainant’s specific concerns communicated to it through Ms. Perrin’s letter of August 30, 2021. As this matter concerned a policy grievance, it concerned the membership as a whole. The union had to make a decision in the interest of all the employees in the bargaining unit. As in Gordon, the union satisfied itself that the policy was within the parameters allowed by the legislative framework and provided for exceptions based on human rights grounds. Further, the union made clear that it would pursue individual grievances to seek accommodations where those were possible. An individual grievance is in fact proceeding with respect to Ms. Watson’s particular circumstances. The Board notes that it would be premature at this stage to pronounce on the union’s approach in that process.
 The Board is satisfied that the union did not act in an arbitrary or discriminatory manner or in bad faith in its approach and communication with the membership as it relates to its decision not to pursue a policy grievance regarding the employer’s vaccination policy.
4. Management Rights Clause in the Collective Agreement
 The complainant also argues that the collective agreement does not contemplate a vaccination policy and that the employer has no management right to implement such an invasive medical procedure as a condition of employment. In her view, the union should have grieved the policy or demanded that the employer negotiate the terms of the policy. Failure to do so, in her view, is a breach of the union’s duty to represent her fairly.
 The union’s interpretation of the collective agreement differs from that of the complainant. The union is of the view that the absence of specific language in the collective agreement does not mean that the employer’s vaccination policy is invalid. Although the union recognizes that it can challenge a new policy through a grievance, it is of the view that the management rights clause in the collective agreement does not prevent the employer from introducing new policies, as long as these are not inconsistent with terms of the collective agreement or other applicable legislation, such as the CHRA.
 The Board accepts that the union has the ultimate responsibility to decide on the interpretation of the collective agreement (see Crispo) and, as such, in this case, that it retains the discretion to determine whether it should challenge the vaccination policy as a proper exercise of management rights. The fact that the complainant disagrees with the union’s interpretation of the collective agreement is not sufficient to establish a breach of the union’s duty.
 After careful consideration of the complainant’s allegations and the written submissions of the parties, the Board is not persuaded that the union’s approach and its decision not to pursue a policy grievance challenging the employer’s COVID-19 vaccination policy was arbitrary, discriminatory or made in bad faith. The DFR complaint is dismissed.
 This is a unanimous decision of the Board.
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