The Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) has proposed the set-up of a panel of independent experts in its final attempt to resolve the discord between trade unions and the Attorney General over the government’s public-service covid19 vaccine policy.
The policy is expected to come into effect from Monday. Only vaccinated government workers will be allowed to work. Unvaccinated employees will not be paid and could risk losing their jobs.
During a press conference at the Office of the Attorney General, Port of Spain on Friday morning, JTUM president Ancel Roget called on the government to back down and rescind the policy and allow an independent five-member panel to assess the accuracy of covid19 statistics provided by the Ministry of Health and draft a report.
Roget said the report would verify that the decision taken, based on TT's covid19 statistics, is fair.
He believes this would restore the public’s trust in the government and ultimately reduce the vaccine hesitancy rate.
Roget suggests the union would nominate two members of the committee, the government nominate another two and the President appoint a chair.
He said the report should be done within two weeks.
The panel’s final assessment of TT’s covid19 data could be used to create a tool to help the government achieve herd immunity without "forced" vaccination, he said.
“If the government has nothing to hide and its figures are accurate, then this process should be welcomed by the Cabinet, the Prime Minister and AG,”
Earlier this month, AG Faris Al-Rawi met with union leaders to discuss the pending vaccination policy. In the end, the unions failed to propose an alternative, Al-Rawi said.
In a letter of recommendations delivered to the AG’s office after the press conference on Friday, the union listed verbal persuasion, frequent sanitisation, regular covid19 testing and work-from-home options as some of the less intrusive measures the Government could explore.
Roget hopes these recommendations will change the government’s mind.
If not, he warned, “All hell will break loose.”
“If it is their intention to increase the vaccination rate and develop a proper policy, they should talk to us. We are ready to talk.
"First, they must take that deadline off the table.
“But if their intention is to send workers home, cut the public service and all the various sectors, then I’ll say to them, ‘You are walking down the wrong road.'
"All hell will break loose at the appropriate time if they continue to go down this rabbit hole."
Roget again called on workers to report to work on Monday.
"It is their right. The union will be out on the street, taking all the reports and seeing which employer is errant, and beginning our legal response.”
"We dare not, shall not, will not stand idly by where workers are forced to take vaccination against their will, where you are willing to take food off their table, deny children education because the breadwinners of the home will be sent home.
"Let me make it clear that the JTUM is not anti-vaccination. We are not in a campaign against vaccination. We support the increase and uptake of the vaccination from inception. We support the vaccination.
"What we are against is mandatory vaccination. What we are against are forced vaccination. What we are against is the use of the power of office to force people to take vaccination in situations where they are denied their rights.”
JTUM said it is still unclear on the government's interpretation of "fully vaccinated." Roget asked if workers without booster shots would fall into that category.
The government must say if workers would be made to continually take additional doses to be deemed fully vaccinated and remain employed, he said.
He asked whether the government will accept liability if a public servant suffers adverse effects after taking the vaccine.
The unions also requested a detailed report on how its vaccine policy for government workers will fulfil its objective to save lives.