T&T:Union leaders meet AG, demand PM withdraws public sector safe zone policy

The amalgamation of trade unions is demanding that the Prime Minister immediately withdraw any attempt to impose a vaccine mandate on public servants and want proof that vaccinations stop COVID-19 infections and transmission before they agree to any vaccine mandate.

The group of trade unions, represented by the head of the Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) Ancel Roget yesterday met with Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi to discuss what they described as the Government’s vaccine mandate.

On Saturday Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced a new vaccine policy to make all Government offices safe zones and as such only vaccinated workers can enter the spaces. Unvaccinated workers face being furloughed.

Shortly after the meeting, Roget held a virtual media conference and said that the group of 14 unions rejected Rowley’s “galloping dictatorship” and described the meeting with the AG as a “sham.” He called for meaningful dialogue and not “bullying tactics.”

“First of all, if you want to engage in meaningful discussion that would lead to a particular outcome, which outcome we are committed to. Which outcome has to do with the stopping of the spread of the coronavirus and even the eradication of the coronavirus so our citizens can live without Covid. If the outcome is to encourage more people to be vaccinated, you are going about it the wrong way,” he said.

He said that the meeting between the AG and the unions was only now called after “his majesty, dictator” stated his intention.

“We consider this to be a sham meeting just to say that there was discussion with the trade union movement and for them to go ahead in any case,” he said.

Roget said that some six months ago the unions submitted a draft proposal to the Government and has not received a response.

“What we have right now is a dictatorship, a dictatorship that has been creeping for quite a while but has now stood up and started to gallop,” Roget said.

“We are under rulership by decree,” he said.

Roget said that the Prime Minister is intent on getting his way and now sought to use “bullying” tactics to get it.

“We are not under proper governance and it is this lack of good governance that would have led them to taking this unilateral position, they having failed to engage the population, they having failed to get all of the citizens on board or behind them to fight this crisis , because clearly we are in a crisis. They having failed to do that, they are about the bullying tactics and the scare tactics,” he said.

Roget said that while the trade union movement supported the vaccination, they also supported a person’s right to choose whether they wanted to be vaccinated or not.

“We said that ahead of all of the discussions simply because we do not want anyone to confuse our position. We are for it but we are against high-handedness and we are against the breaking of our collective agreements, our terms and conditions of employment,” he said.

Roget said he personally believed in the science and was double vaccinated by choice.

“But I believe it is the right of any individual to accept or reject and quite frankly that belief is shared across the board by the trade union movement,” he said.

Meanwhile Attorney General Al-Rawi yesterday said he informed the trade union he would take instructions on their joint request and revert.

He said that the unions were not prepared to speak at all until those two conditions were met.

The AG confirmed that he received the report Roget mentioned and said that it was drafted before the onset of the Delta and Omicron virus.

Al-Rawi also met with the joint protective services and described that meeting as “productive.”

The members of the protective services, Al-Rawi said, stated their case and he was “taking instructions and would revert.”

“It was a very different meeting,” he said.

  • The World Health Organization and leading global health officials have repeatedly stated that COVID-19 vaccines decrease the risk of infection and also prevent hospitalisation and deaths
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