Two regional experts support actions by local unions to oppose the government’s vaccine mandate

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By Theresa Goodwin

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Trade unionists on the island who are mounting legal challenges to the government’s vaccine mandate for public sector workers are likely to be successful in the court.

That’s the view of Dr George Braithwaite, a lecturer in Sociology, Social Work and Psychology at the UWI Cave Hill Campus.

He explained on Sunday that while the government has a say in the protection of the entire nation, there are directives from the World Health Organisation and the International Labour Organisation which point to the need for consultation, education, dialogue and providing a balance.

“I think the government, rather than crippling with courtesy and killing with kindness, is adopting the sledgehammer tactic. I think it is not good for good industrial relations, and in a context where we are all facing a crisis together.”

He also added that the divide and conquer approach will not work.

The mandate, which was initially announced in mid-September, requires that all government employees, statutory corporation workers and employees of government-owned companies be vaccinated or be barred from the workplace.

They also stand a chance of losing their salaries if they are not vaccinated by October 1.

Most of the trade unions have declared their opposition to the vaccine mandate put into effect for public sector workers.

Last week the Antigua and Barbuda Public Service Association also filed an injunction against the policy claiming that the new mandate was “unreasonable, irrational and disproportionate.”

On September 21, the Antigua Barbuda Union of Teachers (A&BUT) adopted a resolution opposing the government’s vaccine mandate, through a vote by the general membership.

They also threatened industrial action if the mandate was not rescinded.

The government announced later that temporary workers would be hired to fill gaps where they arose due to noncompliance with its latest directive.

Meanwhile a member of the teachers’ union in St Vincent and the Grenadines is supporting the stance taken by unions in Antigua and other unions.

President of the union, Oswald Robinson, said it is imperative that the trade unions continue to perform their rightful role.

“Anything that infringes on fundamental human rights, we known that rights are not absolute, but we have a responsibility, and as unions, we have to uphold the mandates that have been given by our membership,” Robinson said.

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