Cabinet rejects teachers’ union resolution; says it will hire temporary workers to fill critical jobs

The Antigua and Barbuda government has become one of the first within the region to implement vaccine mandates, in the fight against the spread of Covid-19. The majority of these mandates will come into effect on October 1.
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The Cabinet appears to be rejecting a resolution by the Antigua & Barbuda Union of Teachers (ABUT), which declines to follow a government policy for mandatory vaccination of all its workers.  

Following a virtual meeting on Tuesday, September 21, the organization said majority of its members had voted against teachers being directed to take the Covid-19 vaccine, which is required in order for them to remain employed with the government and to allow students to return to school plants.

The Cabinet notes claimed that the resolution “flies in the face of the law and is also fatally flawed”.

According to the notes, it is not the duty of the teachers’ union to decide what is safe for children.

“The Government has an obligation to provide a safe environment for children who are compelled to attend school up until age 16 years; that is not the responsibility of the ABUT. The teachers’ union has no locus to determine for children what is safe; the ABUT is a workers’ organization of teachers”, the notes read.

The government has therefore reinforced its policy that all government workers, including teachers must be vaccinated by October, 1, 2021 or remain at home, unpaid for the period for which they do not comply.

That policy however does not include employees of the Sir Lester Bird Medical Centre and community clinics or persons submitting a medical certificate approved by the Chief Medical Officer or a request approved on religious grounds.

Authorized Remote Workers (Public Sector, Statutory Corporations and companies with majority government ownership) are being allowed to operate until 1st October, 2021 at which time the policy will be in force.

Unvaccinated medically-exempt workers are required to present a negative COVID test twice monthly to be eligible to reenter work premises.

In the meantime, the government said it would hire temporary workers to fill critical job vacancies to ensure that these services continue to be available.

“The Government cannot abdicate its responsibility for providing a safe environment for the children who are compelled to attend its schools; the Government is also aware that it could open itself to a lawsuit compelling it to show how that objective is to be implemented, as has happened in several jurisdictions”, the notes continued.

In addition, the Cabinet has decided that all nursing students, whether studying at the State College or the UWI at Five Islands, are to receive a $500 monthly stipend.

According to the Cabinet notes, this is to encourage nursing students in order to meet the shortfall in nurses being experienced by Antigua and Barbuda.

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