It appears for now that not even the country’s public health nurses will be pressed into taking COVID-19 vaccines following meetings with Prime Minister Mia Mottley.
This was the consensus among the nurses who met with Mottley as she sought to gather the thoughts and concerns of frontline workers about the jabs.
The talks appeared to be consistent with a promise made during the Prime Minister’s address to the nation on Saturday, during which she pledged to respect the choice of those who do not wish to be vaccinated.
Mottley said she had started discussions on Monday with unvaccinated frontline workers and would meet with additional groups on Tuesday.
While requests for an update on the talks from a spokesperson in the Prime Minister’s Office were unsuccessful, Barbados TODAY was informed that those who initially entered the meeting with concerns about victimisation reported they were satisfied with the direction of the conversation.
Coordinator of the Steering Committee of Barbados Concerned Citizens Against Mandated and Coerced Vaccines, Winston Clarke, revealed that at the behest of some nurses, he turned up at the meeting but was informed that only nurses would be allowed to attend.
“It looks as if they are not putting pressure on them mandatorily for vaccinations yet, but I know the machinations of politics and I know that now they may give you a certain promise until certain things are done and then you would be up a creek, without a paddle after elections and after certain things have been done,” Clarke told Barbados TODAY.
He acknowledged that the legal opinion recently on the issue of COVID-19 mandatory vaccination and testing obtained by Government places tremendous pressure on essential workers to get the vaccine.
The legal opinion by Queen’s Counsel Leslie Haynes, which was disseminated to members of the Social Partnership last week, stated, in part, that vaccine mandates from the Government for individuals working in essential services, high-risk settings, moderate risk, or in industries that drive the Barbadian economy, are likely to survive a constitutional challenge in court.
Clarke said: “I understand what they are saying and they do have a point, because of their susceptibility to contracting an illness because of their jobs and their professions. However, they too have a choice.
“Remember, these were our heroes last year. They worked, they didn’t have any vaccines and a number of them have survived. In fact, I have only heard about two of them who have passed away relative to what they said was COVID. But this is something that they understood when they came on in the first place – that they would be in contact with people with infectious diseases.”
And while Prime Minister Mottley has indicated there would be no mandatory vaccinations, Clarke suggested the Steering Committee would extend assistance to take legal action in the courts, should Government change its position.
He claimed that several attorneys standing by to “continuously” represent aggrieved workers against employers, pro bono.
Clarke said he is optimistic of an audience with Mottley in the very near future to better understand the “direction the Government is going and what rights people and their children have as far as this agenda is concerned”.
He has written to several private sector businesses, threatening boycotts and lawsuits if they continue to press employees to get vaccinated.
Clarke told Barbados TODAY correspondence had been sent to Republic Bank (Barbados) Ltd, The Tides Restaurant, Cobblers Cove Hotel, Lionel C Hill Supermarket and The Club Barbados.
“I sent off to those last five and there are some names that are forthcoming,” he informed. “But I have on that list the Accra Beach Hotel and Soco Hotel. I also intend to write a letter to the BHTA [Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association].”
“We must remember that these [private sector] people do not fall under the suzerainty of the Government of Barbados. They are private. The only body that can deal with them is the judiciary. So we need to make examples of them and we need to make them pay dearly.
“Redress is at the courts and if they do not do it here because of their close affinity to each other, it will be dealt with regionally at the CCJ [Caribbean Court of Justice] or at the international courts,” he insisted.
Meanwhile, efforts to reach leaders within the Social Partnership, including Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Anthony Branker, Barbados Private Sector Association President Edward Clarke, or officials from the BHTA for a comment on the way forward have so far been unsuccessful.
President of the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB) Edwin O’neale, meanwhile, said the legal opinion presented to them was in line with their stance against mandatory vaccination.
The next Social Partnership meeting is scheduled for August 30.