If the Dr. Ralph Gonsalves-led Cabinet is to have its way the total number of in country COVID-19 jab recipients would drastically increase soon. This as they expect to roll out a new policy as early as April 6, 2021, one source told Asbert News Network hours after a meeting that included several Cabinet members and trade union representatives.
The new jab or test policy targets all Public Servants including teachers and police officers as well as local transportation professionals. According to a leaked update that was sent via one trade union’s WhatsApp group, “the Acting PM [Dep. PM Montgomery Daniel] stated that public servants including teachers would be required to get vaccinated and those [who] wish not to do so will have to take the COVID-19 test every two weeks.
“Van drivers and conductors would be required to do likewise. It is not mandatory but the test has to be done if the vaccination is refused. The government owes a duty of care to the workers and it is for their protection. The policy will come into effect early next month.”
While it is early days yet and none of the local Unions we contacted has had the chance to discuss this new development with their general membership, Oswald Robinson – President of the SVG Teachers Union – told us he disapproved of the way the Jab or Test policy was concocted.
“We have a problem with the approach they took to develop this policy because in a democratic society it is better to use a bottom up approach than a top down approach.
“How did you arrive at a policy? You must have consultations with the various stakeholders before you articulate a policy. But you can’t have a policy and hand it down and expect trade unions and workers to swallow it. That is not how it should happen in a democratic society. So that’s a fundamental issue right away.
“The other issue has to do with people’s rights and freedoms; so we would like to see that policy so that we could discuss it, our members could be properly informed and then we would articulate the response.
“The government needs to present that policy. You can’t just talk from the top of your head and say ‘this is it, this is it, this is it.’ You need to put it in black and white if you’ve already articulated a policy,” the Teachers’ Union president said.
Robinson also pointed out that his Union is not averse to the government’s vaccination drive. “We are not against people taking vaccines. As a matter of fact we have been encouraging our members to take the vaccines but it’s an individual decision.
“You have a personal right to your health and your safety. So the individual worker has to make that decision. There is also the patient charter; the government has a patient charter [which says] if you are a patient you must have knowledge of what you’re going to take and all of that. You have a right to ask questions.
“I noted that they are making reference to Section 50 and 51 of the Constitution but in most cases that would apply to misconduct in public office. So if I refuse to take a vaccine, how does that become misconduct in public office?
“They may want to say it has to do with ‘a reasonable request’ but I as a worker also have ‘a reasonable request’ to refuse something that I am uncomfortable because you have freedom of conscience under the Constitution…”
Robinson confirmed that his executive is “still deliberating” prior to a general membership meeting which is to be convened in order to establish “a strong mandate” before any action is to be taken on this matter.
It is unclear whether the government is prepared to carry the continued cost of the mandated, fortnightly COVID-19 tests. Deputy Prime Minister Montgomery Daniel was not available for comment.