WORKERS IN THE Local public service are being mentally affected by the government’s vaccine mandate, which will officially come into force next week, November 19.
President of the Public Service Union(PSU), Elroy Boucher, was speaking on Interactive Media Limited’s new online discussion programme, ‘The Press Room’ last Wednesday, when he talked about some of the issues workers have had to face as the deadline for being vaccinated draws nearer.
“I know workers who have fears of taking this particular vaccine, are extremely stressed and very anxious. Some people have actually said that they can’t even sleep. There are people who are trying to figure out how they can leave the system early but if they leave before getting to the age of 55 where they can apply for early retirement, they lose everything they would’ve gotten, would’ve earned over those years,” Boucher said during the show, which aired on SEARCHLIGHT’s Facebook page. The Union leader described it as being a testing time for workers, particularly those who have invested more than two decades working in the public service.
The SR& O No 28 of 2021— The Public Health (Public bodies Special Measures) Rules 2021, which will come into force on November 19 requires certain categories of workers to prove they have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Failure to prove that they have been vaccinated against COVID-19 will result in workers not being allowed to enter their respective workplaces, and will be treated as being absent from duty without leave.
Workers may be granted exemption on medical or religious grounds only.
But Boucher said that “although there are provisions for exemption on religious grounds…we are not very hopeful that all of those exemptions are going to be granted because we are convinced that there’s a determination to ensure that the public service is actually vaccinated”.
“We are very concerned and these persons…consider their rights to be very precious to them and what we are seeing is the erosion of those particular rights, so it’s really a trying time for public workers in St Vincent and the Grenadines,” he added.
Though he could not quote exact figures, the PSU president said that perhaps less than 50 per cent of public workers were still not vaccinated against COVID-19.
Boucher said that since the publication of the rules, there has been an uptick in vaccination figures but “not at a level the government would be happy with or expect.”