UNC: Public Service vaccine mandate implementation 'chaotic'

Couva South MP Rudranath Indarsingh speaks at the UNC's weekly media briefing on Sunday. PHOTO by ANGELO MARCELLE - Angelo Marcelle
Couva South MP Rudranath Indarsingh speaks at the UNC's weekly media briefing on Sunday. PHOTO by ANGELO MARCELLE - Angelo Marcelle

Couva South MP Rudranath Indarsingh is calling on government to implement a number of measures to make working spaces for public servants safer, rather than trying to impose a vaccine mandate.

He also condemned the chaotic manner in which the mandate had been implemented.

Speaking at the Opposition’s media conference on Sunday, he said he believed safe zones could be created within workplaces.

“We believe there should be the realignment of workspaces to be six feet apart from each other; the establishment of a public service covid19 sanitisation unit within ministries, within each department, within state enterprises, etc., which would sanitise public offices regularly and in the event of a positive covid19 case; creation of a unit within each government agency to enforce and digitise contact tracing; an audit of the PPE needs of each public agency; and the establishment of a unit dedicated to assessing, procuring, and distribution of PPE throughout the public service where necessary.

“In addition, there should be an assessment of public goods and services accessed by citizens and evaluation of public areas at state agencies to ensure citizens can be served while being socially distanced and furnished with running water, soap and sanitisers.”

He said there should be a hotline at the Labour Ministry to be used by public officers to report concerns of unsafe work environments where the management or public agencies are not enforcing anti-covid19 measures.”

Indarsingh said there was no clear directive from the government on how the mandate should be implemented. This, he said, has led to chaos and confusion. He shared memoranda from three state companies: TT Electricity Commission (TTEC), Public Transport Service Corporation (PTSC), and National Quarries.

The TTEC notice, signed by operations manager (North) Shaun Chase, said all employees were requested to provide information on their vaccination status by January 5, at noon.

The PTSC circular memorandum referenced a public sector safe-zone initiative, as announced by the Prime Minister on December 18 who said the public sector would be classified as safe zones, “allowing only vaccinated and those who have medical reasons for not taking the vaccine to operate." "Please be advised that the PTSC, in keeping with this mandate, will require all employees to provide proof of vaccination/exemption where necessary over the period January 3-7 to their heads of department.”

It said heads of department were to ensure the information was accurate and submit the information to the human resource department by 3 pm on January 7. The corporation indicated it would be guided by the relevant legislation in the execution of the implementation of a safe-zone work environment come January 15.

The National Quarries memo, the title of which was Mandatory Vaccination – Safe Zone at NQCL, said on or before January 14 at 4 pm, all employees of NQCL will be required to present to the human resources department their original and a copy of their covid19 vaccination cards.

It said people who cannot be vaccinated must provide the medical exemption from a registered specialist physician, while anyone who previously tested positive and had to wait the required time period before vaccination must present their positive test notification documents. Additionally, those who could not take the vaccine for religious reasons must present authenticated documentation from their church official.

Indarsingh asked for the legislation which covered the quasi safe zones in the public service.

He said the Opposition believed the mandate was a violation of the Data Protection Act.

“What are the laws that must be amended to facilitate the creation of a quasi safe zone? What are the processes that must now be adjusted? Will all new vacancies be advertised with a vaccine requirement? Will upcoming promotion be based on a vaccine requirement? While the Act is partially proclaimed, the overall aim is to ensure that protection is given to individuals in terms of their right to privacy and their right to maintain personal information as private and confidential.”

He called on public servants to unite and go to their heads of departments, CEOs, and permanent secretaries and demand to know “what have I done wrong in terms of rules and regulations in the workplace and to be provided in writing with a reason or reasons why I am being debarred from entry into the workplace.”

Indarsingh also asked whether the government had realised any memoranda of association or agreement with any of the majority recognised unions. He called on the unions to go before the industrial court and seek injunctions to stop the government.

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