By Theresa Goodwin
One eminent industrial relations consultant is supporting the position of the government to enforce mandatory vaccinations for its thousands of staff from today. It’s a markedly different approach from some union leaders who have instead been encouraging workers to protest in response.
The government declared last week that people working in the public sector, including statutory corporations, must show proof of vaccination in order to enter workplaces – a move which ignited a firestorm from local trade unions.
“Lives are being lost,” Anderson Carty said. “The country is on the brink of being downgraded because of its status,” he continued, referring to travel guidelines issued by some of Antigua and Barbuda’s biggest tourism source markets.
“The Delta variant is creating a dip in the economy and we are saying again, the only thing that is going to help this nation through this is the vaccine.”
He told public and private sector workers, “Do not listen to those unions; they are leading you down the wrong path on this matter. I make it clear on this matter.
“The unions are exposing you to your own economic demise and your own medical demise. I am asking you to act responsibly and I am encouraging all employers in Antigua and Barbuda to follow the government’s lead in mandating your workers to go and take the vaccine,” he said.
Carty also insisted that individual choice was always subjugated to the collective rights.
The Antigua Trades and Labour Union (AT&LU), the Antigua and Barbuda Workers’ Union (ABWU) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) have all spoken out against the mandatory jabs policy, advising many employees to stay home.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne, who appeared on the same radio programme as Carty over the weekend, also advised workers in the public sector who are either fully or partially vaccinated to report to work today and ignore recommendations from union representatives to the contrary.
“I say to you all: do not listen to those political people … who are playing with people’s livelihoods. If you go and give up your jobs in this time, where will you get another job and who will hire you?” Browne said.
The prime minister said he had reminded unions that it was illegal for essential staff to not go to work, and that he had sent messages to leaders advising them of such.