Outspoken Opposition Senator Caswell Franklyn is threatening to go to the law courts if Government allows employers in the private sector to force unvaccinated workers to pay for a COVID-19 test in order to be cleared to work.
The General Secretary of the Unity Workers’ Union (UWU), who described the recent development as nonsense, told Barbados TODAY that the private sector was looking to take this route in an effort to force workers to take the COVID-19 vaccine.
“I am one of those people who is going to take them to court and I don’t make idle threats. I told them I am going to take them to court and I did and I would do it again. And if they try to make this law, well, I would advise the workers to stand up against this Government. They are going too far.
“When I talk about standing up, I mean stop working, a general strike. What they are doing does not make sense. If I come to work and I don’t have a vaccination, what does that do to the workplace? People who got the vaccine can still contract the disease still.”
Last Friday, during a press conference, Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley confirmed that the matter of unvaccinated private sector workers having to settle the cost of COVID-19 tests will be closely examined during a Social Partnership meeting scheduled for this week. Mottley said having to foot the bill for their COVID-19 tests may be the price they will have to pay for refusing the free vaccine.
Franklyn declared that he will not be attending the meeting which he said will not conclude in the best interest of workers.
He said: “I was invited and I am not going. I consider it a nonsense point and I don’t have the time to go up there and argue with people whose minds are already made up.”
However, Franklyn said it would be illegal for employers to force workers to pay for their own COVID-19 tests. The trade unionist suggested that it is the employer’s responsibility to pay for whatever test is needed to show that the employee is fit for work.
Franklyn said he believes the decision-makers are attempting to bring strategies being rolled out in other Caribbean territories by leaders he has described as “dictators”.
The trade unionist said: “They are watching them and feel that they can bring this nonsense down here. If he [employer] wants it [test] he will pay for it, not me, I ain’t got nothing to prove. I don’t understand why I come to work and you take my temperature at the door and I ain’t got no fever and that is the test you are using in every other place in Barbados, what is the difference?”
He added: “So the people coming into the restaurants, will the staff be protected from them? They might come in with a mask but they got to take it off to eat. The safe place to work that you now hear the politicians talking about, you not having an injection doesn’t mean that you are going to have a safe place to work. Because one, you can still transmit the disease if you are vaccinated. They are talking about science. But which science? A lot of scientists coming up with different things.”
Last weekend, Public Relations Officer of the Rastafari Progressive Movements (PRM) Paul Akoma Ras Simba Rock predicted that if employers force workers to pay for COVID tests, the law courts are going to be flooded with cases of workers taking their bosses to court. Like Franklyn, Ras Simba also declared that if an employer is demanding a PCR test from a worker that employer should foot the bill.