T&T: Union Leaders Urge Public Servants To Defy Vaccination Policy

(CMC)- Trade union leaders Tuesday called on public sector workers to reject the mandatory vaccination policy of the government and turn up for work on January 16 whether or not they have been vaccinated against the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that has killed 2, 936 people and infected 92,997 others since March 2020.

Speaking at a news conference outside the Office of the Attorney General, President of the Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM), Ancel Roget, told reporters that all public sector workers should report for duty on January 17 regardless of their vaccination status.

Last month, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced that all public service workplaces will become safe zones and that all employees paid by the State will need to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The government will take its initiative to Parliament next week adding the measure to the Public Health Regulations that only requires a simple majority vote.

To ensure the smooth flow of the vaccination programme, all Ministries’ divisions needed to provide the vaccination status of their organisations—those employees vaccinated and unvaccinated by today January 4, as well as those wishing to get vaccinated and other information.

Prime Minister Rowley has said that his “government will have to do what is reasonable and feasible in order to give us the best protection in a pandemic,” insisting that the government will not return to restrictions on movement or businesses because of the devastating and costly impact on the economy.

“The Government’s workplace will require (except for medically certified reasons) if you are a government employee, that you show your vaccination status. Failing which you would not be encouraged in the workplace and if you are not in a position to come to the workplace you will be on leave on your own, and you would be furloughed. Meaning that you would still have a job on the establishment but you choosing not to be able to come to work under the conditions laid down, that you will then not be paid,” Rowley told a news conference last month.

But the trade unions and the main opposition United National Congress (UNC) have objected to the move, insisting that workers’ right to privacy must be maintained.

“I want to advise all workers …to present yourself for work by the 17th and continue to present yourself for work. Let them deny you entry to your place of work and that will be tantamount to a lockout,” Roget told reporters.

“Do not set up yourself and stay home, present yourself for work,” he said, reminding workers of their terms and conditions of employment.

The authorities have established two vaccination sites to accommodate public sector workers, but Roget, who is also head of the Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OUT) insisted that the worker’s medical records were their private affair.

“Therefore there is no requirement in law …that you must submit to your employer documentation as to whether you were vaccinated or not vaccinated. As workers you have the right to refuse to provide that information to your employers,” he said, adding that JTUM was still willing to hold talks with the government.

The newly installed president of the Public Service Association (PSA), Leroy Baptiste, told reporters that the union will do all it can to protect its members from mandatory vaccination.

‘To force them to vaccinate is wrong, harsh, oppressive and contrary to law. In this regard, we are prepared to deploy all resources to defend your rights and thwart the government’s efforts to deprive you of your livelihood”.

Baptiste also adopted the position of the main opposition party here that the Data Protection Act does not allow for the release of a workers’ vaccination status.

“Notwithstanding that the Data Protection Act…is only partially proclaimed, meaning that only certain sections of the act have legal force at this time…the object of the act is to ensure that protection is afforded to an individual’s right to privacy and the right to maintain personal information as private and confidential,” he said.