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Sask. refinery fights order to reinstate two workers fired for refusing COVID-19 testing policy

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A Regina employer is asking the court to quash a provincial arbitrator’s order to reinstate two employees who were fired for failing to follow the company’s COVID-19 vaccination and testing policy.

Ward Rubin and Dallas Shuparski were both fired from the Co-op Refinery in late January 2022 after several months of progressive discipline over their refusal to follow a company policy requiring employees to submit either proof of vaccination or the result of twice-weekly rapid antigen tests.

In September, provincial arbitrator Daniel Ish found the two men were wrongfully terminated, even though he said the reasons they provided for refusing to comply with the policy were not “overly compelling.”

In his defence, Shuparski sent the company nine anti-vaccination documents he printed off the internet, including a cease and desist letter from Romana Didulo, the self-styled "Queen of Canada."

He said the company failed to consider less drastic ways of dealing with the employees, like putting them on unpaid leave while the policy remained in affect, which their union representatives had suggested.

According to a notice of application obtained by CTV News, the company is disputing the order and asking a King’s Bench judge to either quash the decision and dismiss the two men’s grievances, or send the grievances back to arbitration.

A spokesperson for the Consumers’ Cooperative Refinery Ltd. confirmed the company applied for judicial review in October, but declined to comment further.

In its application, the company argues Ish came to an “unreasonable” conclusion and failed to consider relevant factors. It says his assertion that the two employees had a “clear and unfettered disciplinary record” is based on a “misapprehension.”

“[The decision] fails to consider relevant factors, including the seriousness and pattern of the grievors’ conduct, the grievors’ lack of apology or remorse, the employer’s use of progressive discipline and the grievors’ stated intentions going forward.”

The company also challenges Ish for relying on “post-termination evidence.”

CTV News contacted Unifor Local 594 for comment, but has not received a response.

The judicial review hearing is expected to take place in April, 2024.

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