If the New Democratic Party (NDP) takes the reins of governance, persons who were fired or forced to resign because of their refusal to take a COVID-19 vaccine, will be given back their jobs.
This was said on Tuesday, November 23 by leader of the NDP Dr. Godwin Friday who reiterated that while the NDP supports vaccination as a means of combating the COVID-19 pandemic, the party is philosophically opposed to mandatory vaccination.
He said that last Friday November 19 the government instituted its COVID-19 mandate and the NDP sees this as forcing people to be vaccinated against their will.
Last Friday, 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.
Dr. Friday said this mandate is not who we are as a democratic society and it is not who we wish to become as a people.
“Firing government workers and taking away their benefits because they have not taken a COVID-19 vaccine is cruel and counterproductive and will create more unemployment and misery in our country.” Dr. Friday told virtual listeners that an NDP government would not have a mandatory vaccination policy and therefore would not be firing public servants because of such a policy.
“Anyone who is fired or resigns because of the government’s vaccine mandate must be rehired and otherwise compensated without loss of benefits, an NDP government will ensure that that happens.
“…We cannot just treat people as disposable and expendable because the government has its own artificial timeline that it intends to impose on the people.
“No one should be forced to choose between their body and their bread and that is what is being done. There are better and more effective ways to achieve vaccination rates that do not divide people,” Dr. Friday commented.
He said this government’s approach divides families and workplaces, as persons who were together on the job before the mandate took hold, now have to tell co-workers, some of them their friends, to get off the compound.
“Their friends are telling them that they have to impose these measures because the government tell them so.
“How did they suddenly become so dangerous between the 16th and the 17th and then the 19th and the 20th?” Dr. Friday questioned, adding that the policy has also divided churches and communities.
“This is wrong. This is not who we are. This is not a way a democratic country should function. This approach fosters resentment and distrust of government and engenders unnecessary fear among people”.
The opposition leader said trust and partnership are the cornerstones that will place us on the path of achieving vaccination targets and have better success in combating the pandemic.
“…And these factors are lacking in the current strategy and what we see here is simply the current administration lying on the bed that they themselves made as the old adage goes.
“They must accept that there are different perspectives,” Dr. Friday said. He added that a government must be willing to listen so that persons can accept where we are and where we need to go in combating COVID-19 in light of the distrust of authority and the vaccine.
“It is wrong to proceed with the idea that it is my way or the highway which is what the government is currently doing,” the politician said, adding further that the poor vaccine uptake reflects the failure of the ULP to listen and to engage people.
“We call on the government to end the policy of forcing between choosing between a job and a vaccine and they must stop the firing and force resignation,” Dr. Friday stressed while describing the policy as harsh, unfair and punitive.
The opposition leader said we must acknowledge that the world was not prepared for the coronavirus pandemic and no country was prepared to tackle this public health problem on such a large scale.
“A year ago we did not have any safe and effective vaccines against coronavirus. Everyone sought to make themselves safe, continued to work, many of the same people who are now being put out of a bread continue to do so.
“The vaccine only became available this year. It is therefore understandable, if concerning, that vaccination rates remain low even though safe effective and free vaccines are available,” Friday said.
He pointed out that as a democratic society, concerns and frustration must not manifest into actions likened to a dictatorship even as he acknowledged it is true that a lot of misinformation, disinformation and confusion about COVID-19 exists.
Dr. Friday stressed the NDP accepts that the various COVID-19 vaccines provide strong protection from severe illness and death but the world has come a long way and there are now better tools to combat the virus than when it first emerged.
“… We will succeed only when we work together as a nation not separating and dividing us.
“To protect ourselves and others through masking, hand sanitising, social distancing. All the things that we know so well, building our body immunity, expanding testing, test everybody, vaccinated and unvaccinated.
“We can and will turn the tide against COVID-19. It will take a lot of work and it is going to take time. I have no doubt that we would overcome this as a people together but mandating vaccination is not the way to go,” he said, adding that all over world governments which have considered such a measure as a way out of the pandemic have been reversing these measures.