Labour minister: Workplace vaccination not a simple matter

Supermarket workers wait to be vaccinated at Centre Pointe Mall in Chaguanas on Tuesday. - Photo by Ayanna Kinsale
Supermarket workers wait to be vaccinated at Centre Pointe Mall in Chaguanas on Tuesday. - Photo by Ayanna Kinsale

LABOUR Minister Stephen McClashie said the issue of a workplace vaccination policy, which has been in the spotlight during the covid19 pandemic, is not an easy one to address.

He made this point as he responded to a question from Couva South MP Rudranath Indarsingh in the House of Representatives on Wednesday.

Reiterating the position he articulated in an interview with Newsday on Tuesday, McClashie said the issue is currently before the ministry's industrial relations advisory committee (IRAC). He said the IRAC started work towards developing "a paper on considerations surrounding workplace vaccination and will submit to me shortly."

Labour Minister Stephen Mc Clashie -

McClashie said this is a novel concept which emerged during the pandemic, adding that developing a policy for this concept is also novel.

"We have a number of things to consider, including health, human rights, legal considerations and maybe even personal rights under the Constitution."

He pointed out, "This is an issue which all countries are grappling with at the moment and we have not found a single country which has defined a clear policy on this issue at this time."

He added that the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has also been unable to reach any consensus amongst its members on the issue.

After Indarsingh asked him to make a clear policy statement about workplace vaccination, McClashie said, "As I indicated, this is not a simple issue and it does not have an overnight effect. We are working on it and we are committed to providing that information and the development of a policy in due course."

Indarsingh asked McClashie if his ministry had engaged representative trade unions and business federations towards the realisation of a policy, and for a timeline when it will be completed.

McClashie reminded Indarsingh that the IRAC is a tripartite body, comprising labour, business and government members.

"They are in the process of collating the policy and when it is ready we will engage the necessary persons, to get their opinions."

On Tuesday, at a virtual news conference, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi said Government has not decided whether to make covid19 vaccines mandatory under law.

He referred to a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR ) in April on mandatory vaccination as it related to a particular matter in the Czech Republic.

He said, "The Cabinet has not discussed this matter nor has advice been formalised in relation to this. All that I will say for now is that people are encouraged to vaccinate so that we can protect the nation as we move ahead."

In February, Industrial Court president Deborah Thomas-Felix said employers cannot make it mandatory for workers to be vaccinated.

But she said if a person "is not employed at the establishment but is seeking employment, an employer can insist that the individual gets a vaccine in order to obtain employment at the establishment."

Thomas-Felix said the person can then decide to be vaccinated or not be employed at that business on those terms.


"Labour minister: Workplace vaccination not a simple matter"

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