Employees, unionised or not, are being asked to report any employer who is extending threats to workers to take the COVID-19 vaccine, which is not mandatory.
“Any employer who threatens any employee with dismissal or any form of disciplinary action in relation to taking or not taking the vaccine, we are asking these workers to bring it to our attention and we will take it from there,” stated President of the Grenada Trades Union Council (GTUC), Andre Lewis.
Since the rollout of the Ministry of Health’s vaccination programme about three weeks ago, there have been unconfirmed reports of employers forcing workers, notably in the tourism and hospitality sector, to take the vaccine, as failure to do so can result in termination.
Lewis, speaking on a local call-in programme on Wednesday, reiterated, “The TUC is asking any worker who has that experience to get in contact with us. We have a duty and an obligation to bring to the public any employer who takes that sort of high-handed approach to threaten workers, with the threat of losing their jobs, especially in a period like now….”
He said it is unfair to put workers through that trauma at this time, stating that the vaccine is not mandatory. Therefore, he stated, “no employer has the authority to dismiss any worker, to threaten any worker for not taking the vaccine.”
Nonetheless, the GTUC’s head advised employers to communicate effectively to employees, have knowledgeable and qualified persons make presentations to employees to show the pros and cons of the vaccine to help them decide on their own whether or not they wish to be vaccinated.
During a media conference on February 23, Minister of Health, Hon Nickolas Steele, was asked to comment on social media posts, which alleges that employees are being threatened with dismissal to take the vaccine.
Noting that while social media is filled with misinformation and accusations, Hon Steele however said if there is a legitimate concern by an employee of abuse by their employer, the matter should be reported to the Ministry of Labour or their union representative.
The Minister went on to note the possibility that “an employer trying to convince, discuss with employees the need for them to take all possible precautions, which at this time includes the vaccine, is possible what we are seeing and hearing,” adding that “We need to be careful that it is not misconstrued to be anything else than that.”
Further, he stated that an employer has an obligation to ensure employees have available and take all the protective measures against COVID-19, including taking the vaccine. “So, they need to be as convincing as possible to their employees while making sure they respect their employees’ rights.”
So far, hundreds of Grenadians have received the AstraZeneca vaccine, received as part of the World Health Organization’s COVAX programme and through donations from the Government of India.