Leader of the Opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) Dr. Godwin Friday says the Unity Labour Party (ULP) government no longer has the trust of the majority of the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG).
He thinks also that the current administration has neglected to engage with civil society and the private sector in any meaningful way over the years.
“Now they have resorted to draconian measures to seek to achieve their aims while disregarding the impact those measures are having on our public sector workers and our society,” Dr. Friday said in a virtual press conference on Tuesday. He was speaking about the coming into effect last Friday, November 19 of SR&O No 28 — The Public Health (Public bodies Special Measures) Rules of 2021 officially came into effect and requires that certain groups of workers take a COVID-19 jab in order to continue working in their respective areas.
Failure to be vaccinated will result in workers being deemed to be absent from duty without leave.
In keeping with public service regulations, any worker who is absent from duty without leave for 10 working days, unless declared otherwise by the Public Service Commission shall be deemed to have resigned from their office and ceases to be an employee of the state.
“They have told teachers, nurses, police officers and other public and state workers to get vaccinated or they lose their job and their benefits… they have implemented the policy, one that people demonstrated against on the streets of Kingstown,” Dr. Friday commented.
He said over the past several weeks and now that the policy has been implemented, he does not understand how workers have been made the problem.
“Since when the nurses, teachers and other public servants, police officers become the problem in our country?
“Does COVID-19 require this government to treat workers so unfairly and so harshly? No it does not…” the politician told participants in the virtual press conference.
He said some affected workers are experienced having worked for many years doing valuable work but suddenly they have become disposable, expendable and replaceable “…so that they can be easily replaced by new recruits… that is what some in the government have been saying”.
“Statement by government officials about replacing police officers, teachers and nurses including those with many years of service and experience on the job with new recruits disrespects the service of those affected persons. It disrespects fundamentally those employees,” Dr. Friday pointed out.
He said instead of threatening workers with losing their jobs, their experience and skill must be valued and every effort made to keep them working and in service to the country.
“They are not the problem,” Dr. Friday declared.