Public sector staff warned they risk losing any financial entitlements if they shun vaccine deadline

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By Carlena Knight

With the new vaccine mandate that came into effect on Monday for all government employees, one industrial relations consultant is warning workers that if they fail to abide by the October 1st deadline, they risk losing any financial compensation.

From September 20, workers in all government departments, including statutory bodies, state-controlled enterprises and law enforcement, must show proof of having had at least one dose of a Covid jab to be allowed to work.

Staff who defy the vaccine rules – such as, by going into work without being jabbed and refusing to leave the premises when asked – risk a $500.00 fine or a month in prison.

While they will be paid for staying home until the end of the month, come next month, they will be regarded as being on leave without pay.

According to Industrial Relations Consultant Anderson Carty, not only are persons at risk of losing their jobs, but under the Labour Code, if these workers do not comply, they could be considered having abandoned their job, thus resulting in them losing any sort of compensation, whether severance or otherwise, for their years of service.

“As October 1st comes, and individuals have not cooperated, then it puts government in a position, or any employer in a position to then determine how long can I have this particular staff away from work, if they continue to resist. At some point, a decision will have to be made, especially where the enterprise is affected by manpower, then the employer will have to make a decision to fill that position. The next stage would be for the employer to determine how long will I wait before I come to a decision that it is not likely that the staff will cooperate, and to cite that staff for job abandonment. It is now law that you can be terminated if you fail to adhere to the laws of the State, and in that case, the employer would be under no obligation to compensate you in any way,” Carty explained.

He advises workers to carefully consider their position in light of the country’s fragile economic outlook.

“I am just putting it out there very early so that workers will not be inclined to make the mistake of continuing to resist the Public Health law to their own financial demise. We understand that times are very difficult, many employers right now, new employers in particular are demanding or requiring vaccination as a condition of hire which is not unlawful, so, you put yourself out of a job because you don’t want to take the vaccine, and then you go and apply for a new job and you cannot get the job because the policy requires that you are vaccinated,” he said.

Carty has recently spoken out in favour of the controversial vaccine mandate which – with government being the country’s largest employer – is likely to impact as many as 14,000 workers.

“All of us need to think wisely about the fact that this pandemic is running rampant throughout Antigua and Barbuda. It is wreaking havoc on the health of many individuals, families are suffering, lives are being lost and no one has provided any other alternative other than the vaccine that is helping in avoiding a situation where people become infected to the point that they become grievously sick and some becoming fatal. The evidence shows that the vaccine is safe, and that is the only weapon in our arsenal that seems to successfully assist us in this fight against Covid,” he concluded.

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