Couva South MP, Rudranath Indarisingh isconcerned about the issue of mandatory vaccinations by some businesses.
This week, he said, a major food chain seemed to mandate that employees be vaccinated in order to be prioritized for work.
In a statement to media, Indarsingh said these reports have sparked a much larger debate, on a very urgent issue about the state of employer/employee relations as we seek to reopen the economy.
He said “On one hand, the Opposition notes that employers must seek their interest, and protect their employees, customers, and investments from the socially and commercially disruptive nature of the virus. On the other hand, we also acknowledge that Section 4 of the Constitution, defends the individual citizen’s right to choose, which would extend to the choice of being vaccinated or not.”
“We also acknowledge that in many cases, persons may opt to not be vaccinated after consulting with their respective doctors, and determining the impact of accepting a vaccine on their health.”
Indeed, he said, “the need for a wholesome, considerate Industrial Relations policy that reflects both the interest of the employer and the individual right of the employee is needed, not just in Trinidad and Tobago, but globally. In speaking to this issue, the International Labour Organization (ILO) has advised that each respective country consider its own prevailing legal framework as it determines a way forward.”
The MP said, “It is not shocking, but disgustingly evident, that Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley, Minister of Finance Colm Imbert and Minister of Labour Stephen Mc Clashie have not set a policy foundation on how unvaccinated employees should be integrated into the workplace. This reminds us of the Government’s failure to effect a proper policy on pandemic leave to afford workers time off once affected by Covid-19, and a proper work from home policy to inform the guide the rotation of staff, nor a digitization policy that enhances access to digital resources to be used in the workplace as more people are asked to work from home.”
“Will we now see where unvaccinated employees, who have been loyal to the companies for which they work, will be sidelined because they exercised their choice to not be vaccinated? Are we going to see companies hire workers, not based on their merit, but based on their vaccination status? Given that the public sector is the largest employer of workers, what will the State’s policy be regarding the recruitment of new employees within the Public Service who are not vaccinated?, he asked.
Indarsingh added, “It is evident that in seeking to reopen the economy after so long, Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley and his continuously clueless Cabinet have not considered this important issue, which will undoubtedly cause immense industrial relations turbulence if not handled properly. Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley’s failure to implement such a policy may cause a floodgate of Industrial Relations grievances to the Ministry of Labour and the Industrial Court, by employees who should have been protected by an overarching protection policy.”
“It also shows the unilateral, dictatorial and foolish approach by this Government as it pertains to consultation. Did the Government consult with the private sector on this issue? Has the Government consulted with the human resource and industrial relations specialists in and out of the public service on treating with these matters? Has the Government consulted with the Trade Union Federations and Civil Society Organizations in this country to determine their views? What advice has the Government sought from the crippled National Tripartite Advisory Council (NTAC), which it created to advise the Government on labour related matters?”
Indarsingh said, “The Prime Minister and his Cabinet have again showed that they are managing the Covid-19 crisis with a ‘vikie-vie’ approach. They have not properly considered the issues affecting employers and employees as everyone eagerly tries to regain space in an economy which the PNM has already weakened with its understated mismanagement overwhelming greed.
Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley needs to act in the interest of the employers and employees to create a policy that protects both their interests, and to designate State resources towards ensuring these protections.