Unions in the wrong fight

Republic Bank File photo.
Republic Bank File photo.

The combative stance taken by the Banking, Insurance and General Workers' Union is likely to have influenced Republic Bank's decision to pause its mandatory-vaccination directive for its staff.

On Thursday, the bank noted that its employee vaccination ratio stood at 90 per cent before suspending the requirement for workers to be vaccinated to show up for work.

Trading the carrot for the whip, the bank is offering an ex-gratia payment of $750 to staff who were vaccinated by August 31, 2021. Those who took the jab between September 1 and November 30 last year get $250.

It isn't only unions promoting a rejection of efforts to insist on vaccinated workers in public workspaces.

On Wednesday, the UNC's Couva South MP, Rudranath Indarsingh, the party's shadow labour minister, called on public servants to resist the mid-January deadline for vaccine compliance with civil disobedience. Mr Indarsingh's language was needlessly inflammatory, calling on public servants "to push back the Government."

Last week, only 1,100 public servants showed up to be vaccinated from a corps of workers that's 86,000 strong, Only half have taken the jab.

In all this talk and counter-talk, it's easy to lose sight of why there is growing urgency about getting more people vaccinated and why, in the face of widespread vaccine hesitancy, the government is pushing harder to get more citizens to take the jab.

Industrial Court president Deborah Thomas-Felix has urged dialogue and collective agreement in a workplace matter that threatens to disrupt terms of employment.

There is definitely a discussion to be had about the right to refuse vaccination, but there is also a compelling argument to be made for those who choose the jab and end up punished with public restrictions and an increased threat of possibly fatal illness because of the personal decisions of others.

The fight we are facing now is one of reduction, not elimination, which remains a distant goal and that should be clarified.

Today's mission is to reduce the numbers of the hospitalised, reduce mortality among them, and reduce transmission by the infected by strengthening individual resistance through vaccination.

The vaccines available today are not a magic bullet, but they are a weapon that everyone can accept to improve our lives.

TT is facing rising covid19 cases and is still to feel the full impact of the fast spread of the omicron variant – yet the unions, abetted by the opposition, are still choosing to encourage vaccination resistance instead of urging the use of the weapon we have. Rather than working to increase the job security and collective physical well-being of all their members, they have chosen to back one misguided and/or misinformed section of their membership.

It's the wrong fight, led with the wrong message, encouraging a potentially deadly outcome.

Unions represent the well-being of the workers of this country and they should be leading initiatives to encourage the prophylactic protection of widespread vaccination.

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"Unions in the wrong fight"

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