Augustine: THA will decide on furlough for unvaxxed public servants

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Chief Secretary Farley Augustine has aked for an assessment that will determine the way forward after the Prime Minister’s announcement earlier that by mid-January, all public servants and employees at state agencies will be required to be vaccinated or can choose to stay home without pay.

Questioned at Sunday’s special virtual post-Executive Council news conference on Tobago’s position, Augustine declared, “We will decide what is best for Tobago.”

On the assessment, he said, “I have received a preliminary report this weekend from the chief administrator. I have asked for some gaps within that report to be closed. When those gaps are closed, by Wednesday, we would look at it and assess what we wish to do in the THA.”

He said the assembly decide what it will do with the workers it pays, based on the results of the assessment.

“That should be completed by tomorrow (Monday) because there were about two or three gaps. I asked the Chief Administrator to close in terms of the data, which would be able to say to us definitively how many people are vaccinated in the different departments and divisions and so on.”

From a cursory look at the data, he added, “If we are to go with that policy, I can tell you we may have a situation where we have vaccinated (staff) show up to work – but they won’t get paid. There just may not be sufficient staff to do payroll. Or you may show up at the hospital and half of the staff may not be there. I don’t know if that is what we want to do with the workers that we are paying – meaning the THA is paying.”

He said Tobago needs to be looked at and there may be better ways of encouraging vaccination.

He said he has been receiving reports of supervisors telling staff they should not report for work unvaccinated and would not be paid.

“The THA has given no such instructions to (any) public servants anywhere, and the THA will not be accepting any legal challenge on that matter. Supervisors, if you proceed in that way without clear directives from the executives of the THA – that by law is responsible for policy-making on the island – you are on your own legally.

“All I am saying is that (January 15) is a way off. Allow us to assess the thing properly and decide what is best for Tobago. We would do what is best for Tobago on that matter.”

The THA employs approximately 60 per cent of the island’s workforce.

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