New PSA president Leroy Baptiste makes a forceful point during his press conference on Tuesday at PSA’s head office in Port of Spain. PHOTO BY SUREASH CHOLAI –
NEW president of the Public Services Association (PSA) Leroy Baptiste has told public officers they are under no legal compulsion to provide their vaccination status to their employer.
Speaking at an in-person media conference on Tuesday – since first since taking charge of the PSA on January 1 – Baptiste said the association remains pro-choice and continues to advocate on behalf of its members for the right of freedom to choose whether to be vaccinated or not.
“The association also notes with alarm the illegal Circular Memorandum PA:1/31/ Vol. VI from the acting Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Public Administration which calls on all government employees to assist in the successful implementation of this mandatory vaccination policy.
“We hereby advise all public officers that you are under no legal compulsion to provide your vaccination status to your employer. Your vaccination status has noting to do with your right to gainful employment to make a living.”
He said any attempt to unilaterally alter public officers’ terms and conditions of employment in a bid to force them to vaccinate is wrong, harsh, oppressive and contrary to law.
“In this regard, we are prepared to deploy all resources to defend your rights and thwart government’s efforts to deprive you of your livelihood.”
Baptiste reminded public servants that although the Data Protection Act was only partially proclaimed, the object of the act is to ensure protection to an individual’s right to privacy and a right to maintain personal information as private and confidential.
“We further advise that vaccinated or exempted workers who may be inclined to provide your vaccination status ought to note that measures have not been put in place to protect your confidential medical information in accordance with the law.
“For instance, if you are unable to take the vaccine because of an underlying medical condition, there is no guarantee that such reasons will be protected.”
Baptiste said the creation of a quasi-safe zone by government was a “disguised imposition of mandatory vaccination by an improper, unethical and irrational device.” He said the idea of a quasi-safe zone was confusing, since being vaccinated could not prevent someone from contracting or transmitting the disease, and workers would still come into contact with unvaccinated members of the public.
“We understand what the government is trying to achieve. They want an uptake in vaccination as in their view it is necessary as there is a threat to the health-care system as the majority of people are unvaccinated.
“But if someone has determined that the vaccine is good for them, would they resist taking it? If they don’t take it, they believe it will harm them, and in some cases, people believe it has spiritual implications.
“The end result is that if someone is not taking the vaccine, they are fearful and you can’t conclude that people have malicious intent to harm others or the healthcare system. We reject the notion that people must be forced or coerced to take the vaccine by telling them that if they don’t take the vaccine they shouldn’t come to work, as this is taking away their livelihoods.”
Baptiste said the plan by government to take the measure to Parliament to make it law did not mean it was lawful. He said slavery, segregation, and apartheid were all laws, but were acknowledged to be wrong.
He said government should be focusing on other measures in government offices to reduce hospitalisations, such as enforcing social distancing, sanitisation, and encouraging work-from-home measures.
“Government doesn’t want to meet with the unions because the workplace needs to be managed and regulated, so that these things become mandatory, if you meet with the unions, sign a memorandum of agreement which will be registered, and therefore in each workplace, the supervisors and managers know they have to implement protocols based on an agreement, to reduce the transmission of covid19, and that will result in less people getting covid19.”