SVG: Union Wants Fired Workers Rehired After Vaccine Mandate Ruling

(CMC) – The public sector unions who on Monday won their lawsuit against the government in the COVID-19 vaccine mandate case advised workers to return to work from Thursday.

In her ruling on Monday, High Court judge Esco Henry held that the workers, who were forced out of their jobs in December 2021 for failing to take a COVID-19 vaccine, never ceased to be entitled to hold the respective offices to which they had been appointed.

He said they are entitled to full pay and all benefits due and payable to them in their respective capacities as public officers or police officers, inclusive of any accrued pension and gratuity benefits or rights from the respective dates on which they were deemed to have resigned.

The government has said it intends to apply for a stay of execution of the judgment and appeal the ruling.

However, in a post on its Facebook page on Wednesday night, the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers’ Union said:

“By Order of the Court dated 13th March, 2023 the Claimants never ceased to be entitled to hold the respective offices of public officers, whether it be as a teacher, customs officer, police officer or otherwise. You are therefore advised to peaceably return to your place of work to recommence your duties immediately.”

The union advised the workers that on reporting for duty, they should report to their immediate supervisor “and should you encounter any issues please convey them to your respective union/association”.

On Wednesday, the unions met with the affected workers via Zoom and agreed to hold a joint press conference on Friday.

“This is one of the first events after the court victory where we are going to sensitize and mobilize not only ourselves but the masses,” Oswald Robinson, president of the SVG Teachers’ Union told those attending the Zoom meeting.

“On Monday, if for some reason the government decides to proceed with the appeal which they have been threatening, then we want to have a picket in Kingstown on the 21st,” Robinson said, adding that the proposed venue is in front of the Financial Complex, which houses the Office of the Prime Minister.

The Public Service Union (PSU) and Teachers’ Union have won all the cases they have brought against the Ralph Gonsalves-led Unity Labour Party government but PSU president Elroy Boucher said this ruling is “comprehensive”.

“I have never seen such before; never seen such before. I have never seen a judge specifically speak to special damages to prevent any such thing from happening again,” he said.

“That is only to tell you how serious this matter is and how seriously the judge looked at it. That should give us strength. But hear you, our strength also comes from Almighty God. So let us stand up and fight to ensure that you get what is justly yours and the suffering comes to an end.”