GEORGETOWN, Guyana – President Irfaan Ali has defended his government’s vaccination or test policy, saying it is aimed at creating a safe work environment, even as unions approach the High Court to challenge the measures.
The Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) took the legal action to have the court declare as unconstitutional, the COVID-19 Emergency Measures (No. 20) which require that government workers and public transportation providers, among others, be vaccinated or have in their possession a recent negative PCR test before they can enter their workplaces, transact business with government agencies or provide transportation services. It says the measure is to force workers to be vaccinated.
However, President Ali has insisted that “we have not made vaccination mandatory”.
“What we have done is to say that in order to secure people who are vaccinated and have a safe work environment – and part of the labour relations is to have a safe work environment – if unvaccinated persons have a greater possibility of creating an unsafe environment, then you have to make decisions,” he said on the sidelines of an event at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre on Wednesday.
“Look at what is happening in many countries in the region with Delta [variant of COVID-19]. Many of the countries are running out of oxygen, and if we understand this and the public health implications of this, I’m sure we’ll all make the right decision that we have to support vaccination.”
The government continues to execute an aggressive vaccination campaign, maintaining that vaccination is the surest way out of the pandemic.
The GTUC’s legal action is being supported by the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) and the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU).
Attorney General Anil Nandlall is the respondent in the matter in which the trade unions are asking the High Court to grant an injunction preventing the state from implementing the vaccination requirement and to order the government to stand the cost for regular COVID-19 testing of public servants.
Meanwhile, the GTU has warned that when the term begins next Monday, industrial action will be taken if any unvaccinated teacher is turned away from school.