THE National Health Workers Union said the mandatory vaccine requirements proposed by government are unacceptable, intolerable, and amount to a slap in the face of healthcare workers.
In a release on Tuesday, the union, which represents 1,200 health-care workers across the public and private sectors, said the workers have stood on the frontline of the battle against covid19 since the virus was first detected in TT in March 2020.
“The NHWU acknowledges that the government, like many other governments around the world is now confronted with extraordinary challenges arising from the covid19 pandemic, which it has been unable to bring under control.
"Unfortunately, rather than taking up the heavy mantle of leadership thrust upon it, the government has resorted to copycat and follow fashion governance, by adopting carte blanche the same demonstrably ineffective policies implemented by governments around the world, which, as the evidence bears out, have brought us no closer to ending the covid19 pandemic and returning to normal life.”
It said it was disheartening to see those entrusted to lead the country cowering in fear and running for cover under a cloak of failed international covid19 policies.
“Rather than rewarding healthcare workers for diligent service to the nation, the government has positioned itself as a greater threat to us than covid19.
"Instead of guiding the nation through these treacherous times with strong, determined and innovative leadership, the only ideas which it can muster is the empty and hollow response of violating our civil liberties, placing workers on the breadline and foisting additional burdens on our already burnt out healthcare workers. We wish to state for the avoidance of any doubt that the NHWU will NOT condone bullying and intimidatory tactics by the government against our members.”
The NHWU reminded the government that no employer is legally empowered to impose the disciplinary sanction of suspension without play against any employee unless in strict adherence to good industrial practices and procedures, the rules of natural justice and the rules of procedural fairness; and, that industrial relations law prohibits an employer from unilaterally amending terms and conditions of employment and/or changing contractual terms without consultation.
It said no employer is legally empowered to withhold salaries, emoluments and/other remuneration from employees unless there has been a finding of misconduct against an employee. It said imposing mandatory vaccine requirements not in the original contracts was not valid or legally binding unless all parties to the original contract agree to vary the original contractual terms, and that the proposed non-payment of salaries to unvaccinated workers is unconstitutional.
“Any form of mandatory and/or forced vaccination is objectionable in the extreme and violates an individual’s God given right to personal autonomy and freedom of choice regarding personal healthcare and medical procedures.
“The NHWU wishes to make it abundantly clear that it is neither for nor against vaccination and encourages those of its members who choose to be vaccinated to avail themselves of the publicly available vaccines, after careful consideration and consulting their personal healthcare providers.”
The union, which has been in existence since 2014, said while normally it works quietly behind the scenes, the matter was too important on a national level for it to keep silent.