Activists agitating against forced COVID-19 vaccination and testing have stepped up their threat to target businesses for a boycott over their handling of the vaccination process.
Winston Clarke, coordinator of the Barbados Concerned Citizens (BCC) group which has declared its opposition to any vaccine and testing mandates, said his group boasts of having strong financial backing and numerical support.
Clarke accused the businesses of coercing their employees into taking the vaccines but told Barbados TODAY the date and time of the planned boycott will remain a mystery at this stage, claiming he wants to strike with the element of surprise.
He declared: “We will be putting out feelers to our members asking them not to shop at those businesses. People will come out and not to demonstrate but maybe picket. We have not picked those days yet but we will do that…and there are other things that are planned.
“We want to keep it while the iron is hot…. There are things we want to do.”
Clarke gave an assurance that the planned boycott of businesses would be done in compliance with law and order.
“Nothing violent,” he told Barbados TODAY. “We know how to operate within the parameters of the law. We will find loopholes and we will find ways to get things done. We are looking to file the necessary instruments in court to address the issue of people being placed under duress and also to get people to stop shopping at these people.
“I will be writing letters to them personally asking them to retract their memos to the workers to pay for tests or take the vaccine. A number of employees have spoken to us relative to their feelings that they were placed under duress in order to maintain their employment that they had no choice… because the salary they are receiving they could not afford to pay for PCR testing fortnightly; and that they had no choice but to take the vaccine which they did not want to take.”
In response to the planned boycott of businesses, president of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) Anthony Branker said while the organization supports the rights of workers not to take the injection, employers also had rights too.
“We are fully in support of workers exercising their right of choice. At the same point in time, we also believe that businesses have a right to secure the sustainability and the future of their businesses,” he told Barbados TODAY.
“By that, I mean an employee could be reckless and go out on a weekend and come back into a business and cause an outbreak and then the business ends up having to close and lose millions of dollars.
“So, even though we are supportive of an employee having a right, we are still very much asking that employees be mindful of their behaviours and, as such, we are encouraging persons wherever possible to be vaccinated.”
Brancker said the Barbados Private Sector Association also shared the Chamber of Commerce’s position.
But while Clarke’s group is targeting certain businesses as they continue to lead the charge against vaccine intimidation, he claimed to have become a target of fear tactics himself.
According to him, it appears he is under threat by some segments of the society for his efforts to protect the “constitutional rights” of workers who do not want to take the injection.
“They started to put things up [on social media about me],” Clarke said. “But that’s nothing. I am not worried about that; but what happens is that it appears that certain remarks were made towards me on social media and then…by a phone call. So people [supporters] are banding together and looking out for me. If I am driving anywhere, they always ask that I warn them before so that people can come and accompany me.”
“People who are supporters of us and what we are doing are always with me no matter where I go.”
Clarke said while he does not feel threatened, he still tries to be careful.
“I am not afraid of it but you have to look at things…. It’s not paranoia…but you have to exercise apprehension when you are dealing with certain things,” he declared.
“We have found that people have lied and certain things have happened to people before. You look through history where the possibility [exists that] for what I am doing, something might happen.”