Workers’ Union tells all essential government workers to report for normal duties today

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But Trades and Labour Union tells all non-vaccinated staff – essential or otherwise – to stay home ‘to avoid confrontation’

By Theresa Goodwin

[email protected]

Unions have updated their guidance for public sector workers who will be beholden to the government’s new controversial vaccine mandate from today.

Public servants and others under the government’s employ will have to show proof of a Covid vaccine or remain at home. They also risk not being paid after October 1.

The Antigua and Barbuda Workers Union (ABWU) is advising its members who are essential workers to report to work this morning instead of remaining at home in protest.

The union issued a press statement on Sunday noting it was amending an earlier directive to members in a press release two days earlier, following consultation with its legal team.

“We must advise our membership within those statutory corporations governed by the Essential Services Act No. 9 of 2008 that they are required to report for work on Monday … as usual. The union will seek to advise its membership government by the Essential Services Act in the upcoming days on the way forward,” the release said.

As it relates to members who are not governed by the act, the union is maintaining its stance that they should remain at home on Monday.

The ABWU said the collective action is in support of a September 16 decision taken by the Trade Union Congress – the umbrella body for all local unions – which came in response to the mandatory vaccination policy.

The ABWU said while it understands the health risk faced by the pandemic, it does not support the decision to mandate jabs as employees should be given the right to choose what goes into their bodies.

“The union continues to encourage its membership to be vaccinated and advocate a stronger education programme on the importance of vaccination.

“The union further supports Covid-19 testing for employees, vaccinated and unvaccinated, at the expense of the employer,” the statement said.

“[We] will continue to review and discuss the matter of mandatory vaccination with our legal representatives in an attempt to pursue any available legal challenges. We will provide further guidance to our membership accordingly,” it added.

Antigua Trades and Labour Union (AT&LU) President Wigley George told Observer last night that the recommendation for all of its unvaccinated members – essential or not – was to stay home for the next two weeks “to avoid confrontation”.

Vaccinated workers are advised to go to work as normal.

“Essential workers who are vaccinated are duty bound to go to work,” he said. “Those who are not vaccinated will be out for two weeks and will be part of an educational programme we are putting on,” George explained.

The AT&LU plans to host a series of online discussions featuring medical professionals to better educate its members about the coronavirus and inoculation. The union’s stance will be reviewed on October 1, George added.

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