President of the Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) Ancel Roget has called on the Government to pull back the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for public servants.
He said that unless the policy is withdrawn, the JTUM will not have any further consultations with authorities.
“For us to engage meaningfully going forward, we call for immediate rejection or removal of that position that was announced by the Prime Minister which is tantamount to mandatory vaccination,” Roget said.
Last weekend, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced that all government workers, except those with exemptions for medical issues, will have to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by January 15, 2022. Those who do not comply with the mandate will not lose their jobs; however, they will not be paid.
Accusing Rowley of taking a “unilateral, high-handed, dictatorial” approach to getting members of the public to get immunized, Roget contended that “if the outcome is to encourage more people to be vaccinated, you are going about it the wrong way”.
“Indeed, if you are to engage us in those discussions going forward, you ought to withdraw that unilateral position that was announced by the Prime Minister.
“We believe that the outcome of more people being vaccinated can be achieved through public education and a different type of approach — a collaborative approach — not the badgering. The badgering will only produce a counter-type of effect, where there will be stout resistance,” the JTUM leader said.
Roget, who acknowledged that he was vaccinated, said union leaders were not anti-vaccine but were adamant that people should be allowed to choose whether or not they want to get the jab.
He said they were encouraging members to be vaccinated “but we are pro-choice”.
“I myself took the vaccine, I myself believe in the science. But I believe it is the right of any individual to accept or reject and that belief is shared across the board by all members of JTUM,” he said.
“Until there’s empirical evidence to show that a vaccinated person cannot contract and/or spread COVID-19 and all its variants, then taking the vaccine must be a matter of a personal choice,” Roget insisted.
The Protective Services Associations, comprising the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service Social & Welfare Association, the Prison Officers’ Association of Trinidad and Tobago, Second Division, and the Fire Service Association of Trinidad and Tobago, Second Division, previously rejected the vaccine mandate as well.