Tobago businessman Jeffrey Azar has lamented the "silly" anti-vax excuses from his employees.
Azar owns the popular Roosters fast food restaurant, which has two branches, at Shirvan Plaza and ANR Robinson International Airport, Crown Point.
He also owns Kitchen Creole restaurant and Nova’s Café at Shirvan Plaza.
Azar, who said he has a total of 68 workers, estimated about 90 per cent of them do not want to be vaccinated.
But he said he cannot force them to take the vaccine, as it is still voluntary.
Azar said, “Three of the staff are saying it’s spiritual, because their pastor told them not to take it, and another one said they ‘putting a microchip inside of their body.’ Nonsense. Nonsense.”
He added: “The Government came out and gave us the facts about it and they said do not listen to social media. But everybody is listening to social media.”
He recalled at last Saturday’s media conference, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said unvaccinated people accounted for the majority of covid19-related deaths worldwide.
He said he was saddened by the workers’ stance on vaccinations.
“That is what is hurting me, because I know that it will save their lives, but they don’t seem to care.”
Despite his disappointment, Azar said his hands are tied for the while.
“That is until, God forbid, something happen.
“The only way that I could flex my power is if something happens. God forbid they don’t die. If there is an outbreak on my premises, then I can take the power to make sure all of them is mandatory. Right now, I cannot do it.”
The Prime Minister has said mandatory vaccinations are not a priority at this time.
But he said the Government may be forced to revise its position if new and deadlier covid19 strains emerge.
Azar, who met with the employees last week Wednesday to discuss protocols for the reopening of the food sector on Monday, said the unvaccinated workers will not be fired.
But he stressed they will be required to wear their masks properly at all times at work.
Workers who fail to do so, he warned, will be sent home indefinitely.
“What I have done is put certain things in place where, if I catch them with their mask down, they will be sent home until further notice.
“If they get the vaccine, that is a different story. But they are not allowed to have their nose and mouth exposed while they are working.”
Azar said workers will also have to sanitise and record their temperature when they get to work.
“We have the supervisors with a notebook to write everybody down.”
He added: “We have no choice until the Government makes a decision, whether its mandatory or not. Because, as it stands now, I am allowing them to come to work. But if, God forbid, we have one incident, then everybody will be sent home until they get the vaccines.
“So I am hoping that we don’t get an outbreak or, if the Government makes a decision, we let them go and take their vaccines.”
Azar said he has invested in sanitising equipment.
“I have done all of the precautions with buying the sanitiser guns to spray three times a day, plus the temperature guns that are attached to every door entrance and the sanitiser to wash your hands.”
Azar said he has been warning his staff about the dangers of not taking the vaccine.
“I have told them that it is not safe to come and work in an environment like this. So the only thing that I could have enforced is that if I catch you with your mask off, you will be sent home.”
Last week, Mario’s Pizzeria implemented a covid19 policy for all of its staff, saying those who do not want to be vaccinated would remain temporarily laid off.
The company’s CEO Roger Harford, in an internal memo, said while vaccinations are not mandatory or enforceable, only vaccinated employees would be prioritised for work.
After being shut down for two and a half months to contain the spike in covid19 cases, the food sector reopened on Monday but operations are limited strictly to takeaway, delivery and curbside services.
On the reopening of the sector, Azar said: “We are glad to finally get to do something. It was just too much. It was tough on everyone.”
He said if the lockdown on the food sector had continued much longer, many businessmen would have become bankrupt.
“But, thank God they have opened the dine-out so we could start the takeaway. I welcome the opening.”
Azar said he suffered significant losses.
“Because of the abrupt way in which the business was closed down, we lost 200 chickens.”
He said the chickens come frozen from Trinidad.
“We defrost them completely, wash them, marinate them – and that cannot go back in the freezer. That has to be used or thrown away. So we took a great loss.”
He said the Government should have given the sector three-four days’ notice before shutting it down.
“We could have at least given away the food. But that is not the case. It was abruptly done in one day and we locked down and we took our losses. I hope that does not happen again.”
Azar said since the reopening, sales have been terrible.
“We only had about ten per cent sales on Monday. I don’t know if it is because people have no money or they are just too scared to come out, but it has really been bad.”