Last November, the Unity Labour Party (ULP) government instituted its COVID- 19 vaccine mandate, requiring police officers, teachers, nurses and certain other government and state entities to take the COVID- 19 vaccine, as a standard of qualification for work. Hundreds of state employees including sanitation workers refused to be vaccinated and were fired from their jobs. It was a cruel and evil act by the government. The New Democratic Party (NDP) has always been opposed to making the COVID- 19 vaccine mandatory.
After much criticism of the government by the general public, the persistent and relentless call by the NDP for persons to be reinstated and legal action by the public sector unions against the government; it would appear that the govern has begun to ‘buckle under pressure’. As a result, a memorandum was sent from the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Health, to the Chief Environmental Health Officer, dated 23rd February, 2022, with the subject: Permission to allow unvaccinated permanent sanitation workers who are off the job to show up for work. Subsequently, a news article was published on one of our online publications with the captioned, “Vaccine mandate did not apply to sanitation workers, Health Minister says.” Then, why were these workers who did not take the vaccine fired? Who is the Minister trying to fool?
The NDP’s position on this matter is clear. While we, as a party support vaccination as a means of combatting COVID-19, we are philosophically opposed to making the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory. Mandating vaccines—i.e. forcing people to be vaccinated against their will is not who we are as a democratic society. It is also not who we wish to be as a people. And, firing government workers and taking away their benefits because they have not taken the COVID- 19 vaccine is cruel and counter-productive and will create more unemployment and misery in our country.
We have warned the government repeatedly that mandating vaccination is not the way to go. All over the world, governments that have considered such a measure as a way out of the pandemic have retreated from mandatory vaccination. But, not in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. It is only through collaborative endeavours, communication, and trust that we can win this battle against COVID- 19. The ULP administration has time and again has broken the trust of the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. They have also neglected to engage with civil society and the private sector in any meaningful way over the years.
Anyone who is fired or resigns because of the government’s vaccine mandate must be rehired or otherwise compensated. We have made it abundantly care that an NDP government would ensure that anyone who resigns or is dismissed form his/her job because of the government’s vaccine mandate is rehired or otherwise compensated and will receive all affected benefits as well.
No one should be forced to choose between their body and their bread. There are better and more effective ways to achieve vaccination goals that do not devalue and divide our people. The government’s approach divides families, workplaces, churches, and communities. It fosters resentment and distrust of government and engenders unnecessary fear among our people.
Statement from the NDP Women’s Arm President in Celebration of International Women’s Day 2022
It is indeed an honour to join with women around the world to celebrate International Women’s Day 2022. The theme, “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow” #Break The Bias, is most fitting given the global impact the Covid-19 pandemic is having on everyone, particularly women. It is also timely as our world is currently facing many challenges including climate change, high rates of unemployment, inequity, armed conflicts, and the erosion of women’s rights. Indeed, many more of our women are struggling to survive having lost their sources of subsistence.
Gender equality is a critical human right. All humans, regardless of gender, are equal in the sight of God. Why then, should we treat each other differently? Women and men must enjoy the same benefits based on their roles in society. This can yield many positives including the promotion of respect for basic rights and social justice for all. Furthermore, the eradication of job discrimination and closing gender gaps in employment can maximize the use of talents and skills from a larger pool of more diverse and innovative ideas.
It is true that in the past women may have shied away from such fields as politics, private sector leadership, science, medicine, law, technology, engineering, and mathematics. However, today’s women have made tremendous strides in these areas. They have proven themselves as equally intelligent, functional, innovative, and competent co-workers alongside their male counterparts. Nevertheless, despite these gains, research shows that political representation by women in parliaments around the world stands at less than 25%. This must change.
Research has also shown that bias contributes to women’s sufferings as they are often bypassed for jobs and promotions. Three out of four women experience bias at the workplace. Black women, especially those who are physically challenged, are at an even greater disadvantage. Unfortunately, some of our men continue to sit in silence when women speak out and make valuable contributions on issues like gender inequality. We need men to help us change the negative mind-sets that enable physical abuse, sexual harassment, and facilitate other unfair practices perpetrated against our women.
The world is rapidly changing and expects diversity, equity, and inclusion. Therefore, women must ensure that they equip themselves with the necessary knowledge and skills to confront these challenges. Government also has a role to play in helping to promote gender equality among the people. Appropriate laws must be passed and implemented to facilitate gender equality and empowerment. National plans and policies must pave the way for all to participate in national development. Collectively, everyone everywhere can strive to achieve “gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow.”