Government and the business community ought to jointly bear the brunt of any costs associated with the regular testing of employees as an alternative to vaccination.
This is the opinion of Opposition Leader Bishop Joseph Atherley who fears that any move to force working class Barbadians to foot the bill, would be tantamount to vaccine coercion or de-facto forced vaccination.
“Workers cannot bear that cost, not in the current circumstances. Government itself probably cannot bear that cost and the business community will tell you that it cannot bear the cost in the current economic circumstances either. So it may be that what you come down to as an arrangement that allows for all three entities to participate in defraying the costs of tests for those who, exercising their rights, want to refuse the vaccine,” Atherley told Barbados TODAY.
“Now if all three entities, businesses, workers and government are to contribute to the cost, one also has to bear in mind that you are dealing with partners who are not equal partners.
Workers are not equal with the Government, workers are not equal with capital and the power of capital is stronger than the wherewithal of workers, and the government purse is much bigger than workers’ pockets of course.
“I therefore see it as a situation where you have to find a happy medium ground that treats to the interest of the national wellbeing and national health. If tests are an alternative to vaccines, then the costs have to be defrayed within the context of an arrangement that allows all three entities to participate with the understanding that workers are not equal partners and probably have to contribute less than any of the other entities,” the Opposition Leader added.
The debate heated up after PM Mottley last Friday declared that part of an employers’ duty to provide a safe workplace could extend to ensuring persons are either vaccinated or COVID-19 tested regularly. Mottley revealed that the Government would consider refusing to cover the cost of regular testing given that vaccinations are free in an increasingly polarising environment in which private sector officials appear heavily in favour of forced vaccinations.
Since then, the PM said the Government would be seeking a legal opinion on the issue which will be discussed first at the social partnership and later by the country in a series of town hall-type meetings.
Bishop Atherley however believes that a balance ought to be struck between ensuring the health and wellbeing of Barbadians and a person’s right to choose based on faith, personal or sociocultural considerations.
In fact, he argued that a decision for workers to foot the bill would be “woefully wrong” as it would leave them with no other choice.
He expressed support for planned protests and court challenges on the issue.
“I don’t think it is too early at all either to protest or to say that we see court as an option. The courts are there as a proper establishment of our democratic culture and our constitutional architecture and if people want to say from very early that they are prepared to go as far as contesting this in court, it is their right to do, whether they are workers or business people,”
Meanwhile, President of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) DePeiza declared that Government ought to be clear about the direction it wants to go on the issue of vaccines. She also suggested that instead of being so hard and fast with locals, the administration should pursue a more rigorous public awareness campaign and pay greater attention to the borders.
“You can’t be holding down people and forcing them to take a vaccine unless you are also in a position to take the fallout should they have an allergic reaction, if the efficacy is not quite made out to be what they say it is as sometimes happens with medication. You have to be in a position to take liability for any injury that anyone suffers,” DePeiza contended.
“The correct thing to have done from all back in December was not to show yourself getting a vaccine. We are not puppets. It was to put information in the public domain from credible sources besides a calypsonian. It needed to be medical professionals and getting the correct information in the public domain. You left a void and people filled it with Wikipedia and Google,” the DLP president added.