Tuesday, April 16, 2024

CTUSAB: Urgent meeting needed to discuss COVID-19 immunisation and workers’ rights

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General Secretary Dennis de Peiza said the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB) will make a request for a meeting of the Social Partnership to discuss COVID-19 immunisation and workers’ rights.

De Peiza said the meeting is necessary to protect the rights of workers, many of whom have come under pressure from employers “to comply to a request to be immunised”.

“While urging members of the workforce and the public to be immunised, the Congress accepts and supports that this remains subject to voluntary participation,” De Peiza said.

“The Congress, therefore, cautions employers that in the absence of any existing law, and where there is no contractual requirement for an employee to be immunised, that they have no lawful means to force an employee to comply to a request to be immunised.”

He said: “Employers should, therefore, refrain from the use of tactics which include victimization, intimidation or punitive measures against employees who exercise their right not to be immunised. It is strongly recommended that instead, employers undertake to resort to the use of moral suasion.

“It is important that employers give serious consideration to their obligations and responsibilities under the anti-discrimination laws of Barbados, which have been enacted to prohibit discrimination of employees in the workplace on matters such as HIV/AIDS, and testing for COVID-19.”

Citing Clause 8 of the Employment (Prevention and Discrimination) Bill 2020, which makes specific reference to the prohibition against testing for medical condition, De Peiza said a national discussion on the matter was urgently needed.

“Respecting the fact that COVID-19 is seemingly a lasting threat, it has become more apparent that options need to considered in the interest of maintaining the operations of workplaces and ensuring the safety of the work environment,” he said.

“Consistent with this, CTUSAB supports the implementation of a surveillance regime for employees who opt not to take a vaccination. Notwithstanding this, the Congress cautions employers that this should not be taken to mean that any introduction of a surveillance regime, provides an opportunity to the infringement of workers’ rights.”

De Peiza said employees also had a responsibility to turn up for work, even though some of their colleagues may not be immunised.

“The Congress cautions employees that where a fellow worker has not been immunised, they have no legal grounds for not reporting for duty at the workplace,” he said.

“Employees are, however, reminded that as provided for under Section 104 of the Safety and Health at Work Act, they retain the right to raise any concerns over the safety of the workplace with the employers.”

(AR)

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