President of the Industrial Court, Deborah Thomas-Felix has stated that consultation must first take place before a mandatory COVID 19 vaccination policy can be introduced.
Speaking at Friday’s special sitting of the Court for the 2021/2022 Law Term, Thomas-Felix said generally speaking, a vaccination policy may be included as a condition for new employment, but with regard to existing terms and conditions, it is settled law that an employer “ought not to unilaterally make any material change or alteration to a worker’s contract of employment.”
Thomas-Felix said the collective bargaining process extends not only to wage negotiations, but also encompasses the resolution of all issues of common interest in the workplace.
The Industrial Court President adds that in cases where collective bargaining breaks down, the dispute can be taken to the Labour Ministry or the Industrial Court by means of an Industrial Relations Offence.
She said parties can consider adding COVID 19 related clauses to new Collective Agreements.
Thomas-Felix pointed out, “It is not for me to comment and to express an opinion on the debate of whether or not vaccination policy should be mandatory or voluntary in the workplace, except to say what the laws provide if such policies are to be implemented. For the sake of clarity, I have never expressed the view that vaccinations cannot be a protective measure at work. In fact, the International Labour Organization (ILO) Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations, of which I am a Member for the past 6 years, examines country reports on certain international standards that, among other things, cover the issue of immunisation in relation to the safety and health of workers in specific occupations and sectors.”