The Antigua & Barbuda Free Trade Union is the latest body to speak out against a government policy to coerce frontline public servants to become vaccinated against the covid-19 virus.
The government wants workers to either become vaccinated against the virus or to take regular covid tests at their own expense. A COVID-19 RT-PCR (real time polymerase chain reaction) test for SARS-CoV-2 costs XCD$300 (UDS$100) while the rapid antigen test costs XCD$260 (USD$96).
The Union said that kind of policy would disenfranchise employees who choose to remain unvaccinated.
They will be unable to perform their duties and by extension not be remunerated, it said in a press statement.
The Free Trade Union is insisting that the government “foot the cost” of taking tests as a condition of employment.
“Further, if such a policy is implemented as a condition of employment, then it also stands to reason that any negative impact on the Employee must also be seen as an Occupational Health and Safety Issue for which the Employer must be held liable.”
It also argued that under the circumstances, where an unvaccinated employee would not be allowed to work indefinitely without employing either measure, would then be considered as being “constructively dismissed”.
“This means that the Employer has created a situation which shows clearly that the Employer no longer intends to be bound by the Employment Contract. In other words, the Employer created a situation that now makes it impossible or difficult for the Employee to resume his duties. Such dismissal is tantamount to an unfair dismissal”, the union surmised.
The Union’s President Samuel James called on the government to be “a little more caring” and to recognize that “workers are not guinea pigs”.