President of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers’ Union (SVGTU) Oswald Robinson has called upon members to “stand firm” in the face of the Government’s mandatory vaccination policy for teachers, referring to the situation as a “staged crisis”.
In a message to members dated October 25, 2021, Robinson said the SVGTU remains resolute that they do not support mandatory vaccination.
Last Tuesday, October 19, SR&O No. 28 of 2021 – The Public Health (Public bodies Special Measures) Rules, 2021 was published in the Government Gazette. The Rules make it mandatory that certain categories of workers, including teachers, prove by November 19, 2021 that they have received at least one dose of a COVID19 vaccine, failing which they will not be allowed to enter their respective workplaces, and will treated as being absent from duty without leave.
“Our members should be given the God given right to choose. We categorically reject the Government’s mandatory vaccination policy which threatens our livelihood and that of our dependent relatives.
“It is unethical for any Government to unilaterally change the working conditions of its employees under the disguise of a Public Health Emergency. We are reminding all our members to stand firm on your grounds and not be swayed by coercion or threats of any kind. Stand with your Teachers’ Union. You are protected under the Trade Union Act,” Robinson said in his message.
He referred to Circular No. 139/2021 dated October 22nd, 2021: COVID-19 VACCINATION STATUS OF STAFF MEMBERS, which he said has been circulated by the Ministry of Education.
“…we assure you that you are not obligated to supply any information of your vaccination status to the Ministry of Education.
“Whereas the vaccine will lessen the symptoms of the Corona Virus Disease 2019 it does not in any way prevent any of us from contracting or spreading it. Thus, creating a false sense of safety in the workplace.
“If the Government sees it fit to implement mandatory vaccination, we are adamant that they MUST accept full responsibility for any adverse reaction or death as a result of it.
“We strongly advise our members to stand up with us as we represent you in this staged crisis.
“We strongly reiterate that there should be absolutely no mandatory vaccination.
“The SVGTU will continue to be engaged with our legal counsel as we look at every legal avenue to ensure that our livelihood and rights are protected,” Robinson said.
The Rules, which affect almost 5,900 employees of the State indicate that an employee who is required to be vaccinated may be granted exemption on medical or religious grounds only. To be exempted on medical grounds, the employee must provide a written certificate from a medical practitioner approved by the Medical Officer of Health certifying that vaccination is not advisable on the medical ground stipulated in the certificate, while exemption on religious grounds will only be granted if the employer is able to make alternative arrangements to accommodate the employee.
The Rules stipulate that employees who have been granted exemptions must be regularly tested for COVID19 and if the exemption is given on conditions, the employee must comply with the conditions.
An employee who “without reasonable excuse” fails to comply with the Rules “must not enter the workplace and is to be treated as being absent from duty without leave,” and if that employee is “absent from duty without leave for a continuous period of 10 working days, unless declared otherwise by the [Public Service Commission], shall be deemed to have resigned his office and thereupon the office becomes vacant and officer ceases to be an officer.”
Any employee who enters the workplace in contravention of the Rules “commits an act of misconduct and is liable to be disciplined in accordance with the (a) Public Service Commission Regulations or any other relevant written law, in the case of a public officer; (b) or relevant laws that regulate the service of the employee, in the case of every other employee,” the Rules state.
As at October 25, 2021, there were 1774 active COVID19 cases in SVG and 63 deaths from the viral disease.
[[UPDATED at 11:51 am on October 25, 2021 to include the number of active COVID19 cases and confirmed COVID19 deaths in SVG as at October 25, 2021.]]