TRINIDAD: Unions warn “all hell would break loose” if unvaccinated public servants were sent home

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JTUM president, Ancel Roget, speaking to reporters

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – Trade union leaders Friday promised “all hell will break loose” if the Trinidad and Tobago government goes ahead with its plans to have public sector workers vaccinated by January 16.

The unions have already urged public sector workers to turn up for work next week whether or not they have been vaccinated against the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that has killed 3,134 people and infected 98,927 others since March 2020.

Speaking at a news conference outside the Office of the Attorney General, President of the Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM), Ancel Roget, warned senior public servants and managers of state-owned public entities that they should not prevent any unvaccinated worker from being at work.

“We are warning those misguided managers….because of their status want to create chaos, who would want to start the bacchanal, we are warning all of them, we are warning that misguided personnel…and all other employers, we are warning you to stop and desist and allow workers to work and to let good sense prevail”.

Roget told reporters that all hell would break loose if the government went ahead with its “misguided” safe zone policy.

“No reasonable person in this country can expect a self-respecting trade union movement, like the Joint Trade Union Movement, to stand idly by and allow workers to be taken advantage of… (and) therefore all hell will break loose at the appropriate time if they continue to go down this misguided road.”

He said if the government intends to increase the vaccination rate while developing a policy that is not all-inclusive, then the trade unions must be involved in any discussions in the future.

“But take that deadline off the table,” he said.

The government has said that workers who show no proof of being vaccinated will be sent home and not be paid, and Roget warned the state to prepare for a showdown.

He promises that the government would feel the full brunt of the trade union movement if any worker is sent home.

“So on the eve, the last working day of this week before the erroneous course of action, we want to warn everybody, cease from implementing a policy, implementing a measure that is unlawful and which measure will be met with the full thrust of response coming from the trade union movement.”

Roget said that “thousands and thousands” of people are “incensed” at the government’s move and “unlike previous measures before they are prepared to do so something about this one because this one deals with your rights and if they get away with this…then an employer, can without discussion implement anything.

‘We wait to see how this will unfold, but we are well prepared for the unfolding,” Roget told reporters as JTUM delivered another letter to Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi calling for further discussions on the matter.

Earlier this week, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh dismissed claims by the National Trade Union Centre (NATUC) that some people had become paralyzed after taking a COVID-19 vaccine.

NATUC at a news conference allowed members of three families to make a claim, and Deyalsingh said. At the same time, he did not want to “downplay” the families’ claims; he could not confirm or deny what transpired without proper doctor certificates.

He said that the Ministry of Health would be looking into the allegation and epidemiologist, Dr. Avery Hinds also rejected the claim by NATUC general secretary Michael Annisette that there has been a surge in COVID-19 cases since the safe zone initiative was launched last October.

Dr. Hinds said no scientific evidence to prove this is true. He said safe zones would not work if people did not follow the public health protocols of sanitizing, wearing masks, and social distancing.

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