JTUM: Let AG withdraw Jan 15 deadline to vaccinate and talk to us

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

JTUM president Ancel Roget.

THE Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) on Wednesday urged Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi to withdraw the Government’s January 15 deadline for all government-paid workers to be vaccinated and instead join them for talks towards fighting covid19, in a letter to the AG which was also sent to media houses.

JTUM said after last Wednesday’s meeting between JTUM and the AG, Al-Rawi had promised to get back to them very soon, but instead held a news conference to state his official response and certain positions which JTUM said were “totally inconsistent” with their understanding of the meeting.

“Respectfully, it is to be noted that this does not auger well for improving already extremely low levels of trust and confidence in the process led by your good self or the desired speedy resolution. However, we still await a date and time for the follow up meeting.”

JTUM said the urgency of this crisis meant it was critical to reach a resolution very soon.

“As we stated at the meeting, because of the urgency of finding solutions it would be prudent for you to withdraw the deadline date of January 15, 2022 to facilitate sincere and meaningful discussions.” JTUM urged the Government to instruct state bodies to start talks with recognised majority unions to address this crisis.

“We are again asking, why was there no implementation of the IRAC (Industrial Relations Advisory Committee) recommendations on vaccination workplace policy which was the outcome of a tripartite process?” They asked why IRAC, a tripartite body appointed by the Labour Minister, was not called out if there were challenges with its advice.

JTUM asked if the mandatory vaccine policy was a requirement for international funding, and if so, did it include a conditionality to downsize?

“Is the Government carrying out an IMF/World Bank conditionality to downsize the public sector workforce?” What percentage of the public service are unvaccinated, JTUM asked?

JTUM asked if safe zones could soon include groceries shopping malls and business places – all used by public servants – plus schools, prisons and landfills.

“Who will be performing the work when the Government removes all these public sector workers and other workers from their jobs?”

JTUM asked how many deaths in TT each day were not covid19-related.

“Is the arbitrary deadline date of January 15, 2022 linked to a January 2022 vaccines expiration date?

“What percentage of vaccines are meant to expire by February 2022? Are workers being forced to take the vaccine because of these expiration dates?”

JTUM said it was committed to TT’s effort to end the spread of covid19 in the quickest time.

They said a engagement with stakeholders towards consensus was better than mandatory vaccination which would see some workers unilaterally removed from their jobs.

However last Friday, Al-Rawi had said, “The Government is not in a position to withdraw its policy statement.”

Saying time was significant amid rising deaths and infections, the AG had said, “The Government has reached the position where we are obliged to act to save lives.”