Unions wary of public servants return to work

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Public servant Anissa Williams holds her vaccination card after receiving a covid19 vaccine at the Ministry of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs, Government Campus, Port of Spain in January. All public servants are to return to work on Monday. – FILE PHOTO/SUREASH CHOLAI

While the Prime Minister has announced that all public servants – vaccinated or unvaccinated – must report to work on Monday, National Trade Union Centre (NATUC) head Michael Annisette says public servants must never forget the PM’s previous attempts at a mandatory vaccination policy.

Dr Rowley made the announcement in the House of Representatives on Friday.

Annisette told Sunday Newsday, “It (the recent announcement) doesn’t change the fact that the government attempted to use vaccination as a mechanism and process to force public sector employees to vaccinate and they made the vaccination a condition of employment.

“It should have never happened…if somebody cuff you in your face and they say they sorry, you still got cuffed in your face.

“The decision to have any form of coercion, and using (employment) as a level of coercing people so that they can get the injection, was unfortunate, against science, undemocratic and it had no place in terms of the science.”

Annisette said the government should do away with safe zones as “there is no basis in law for that approach and the science all over the world would have proven that.”

President general of the National Union of Government and Federal Workers (NUGFW) James Lambert welcomes the PM’s decision but wanted workers to have been given more preparation time.

“The general public will be happy for some ease in the restrictions but there are some implications for some. No one would have known much because they (the rollbacks) came immediately.

“You have to speak in terms of families going back to work, mothers, single parents and so forth.

“Nothing has been said pertaining to daycare centres, so there can be places to take care of children when parents return to work or at least options for parents to make arrangements.”

Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh on Saturday said daycares remain closed as a precaution against the spread of the virus to young children.

Still, Lambert sees the easing of restrictions as a positive step for the economy and workers – like taxi drivers – who would have sustained prolonged financial losses.

While he encourages people to get vaccinated against covid19, and believes in its benefits, Lambert said he never supported the government’s attempt a mandatory vaccination policy for public sector workers.

“The government seems not be going along with the idea of the compulsory vaccination so far, as they have said, so I do not believe we should not become complacent.

“The union fraternity has always said it (vaccination) should not be mandatory because people should not have been told to get vaccinated because they had disagreements and uncertainties about it.

“Covid has still not gone away in its totality because people are still dying and we still have some people getting the virus. So I’m hoping then that those who have not get vaccinated will look into it.”