The President of the Public Service Union (PSU), Dean Flowers, has described as discrimination, the decision by the Belize government to have public officers show proof that they have been vaccinated against COVID-19 by December 15 or face the risk of being marked absent from work and subject to disciplinary action.
A circular from the Public Service, Constitutional and Political Reform, states that ‘for the safety of all public officers and the public service, it has been decided that all essential workers and other public officers must be vaccinated by December 15, 2021”.
The circular said that as of that date, “all public officers must show proof that they have been vaccinated, either fully or first shot only.
“Managers are therefore advised that Rapid Test or PCR test will no longer be accepted. Failure to provide a copy of the Vaccination Card by 14 December 2021 will result in the public officer not being allowed into the office”.
Flowers said the union is in receipt of the memo saying it is “an instruction handed down” by “our dictatorial colleagues or friends or ministers coming out of cabinet.”
“So the Ministry of Public Service, of course, simply carried out the instructions. Now the first thing that concerns us or that pops to our mind, of course, is on what basis does this circular become enforceable. There is no legal basis for it. “
Flowers said he wonders whether the government will return to Parliament to enact new regulations or that the new statutory Instruments (SI) “that is coming out shortly an amendment that will now require essential workers and public officers to be fully vaccinated to be able to access public buildings?
“We believe that will be the case and of course, a follow up to that will be then, if they‘re going to do that to be able to make this enforceable or legally enforceable, is it that this administration will continue its discrimination against public sector workers because this is discrimination public sector workers,” Flowers said.
The PSU president has also criticized the private sector for adopting what he termed “double standard’ regarding the vaccination program.
He said the business community had objected loudly to similar measures being imposed on employees within the private sector but that it seemingly supports the position being taken by the government for all public officers to be vaccinated by mid-December.
“We saw the private sector calling for this. We saw whereby the private sector call for this and we saw where the private sector refused to hold its own self accountable by demanding that the same measuring stick be leveled against their employees.
“So this is discrimination against public sector workers because it does not take into consideration workers outside of the public service and those are some of the things that immediately come to mind,” Flowers said, accusing the present John Briceno government of not consulting with stakeholders.
“They have never consulted with us since taking office as it relates to COVID-19…I believe that their interpretation of industrial relations is that they don’t need to consult. So ultimately they are not respecting the collective bargaining process where dialogue is concerned with the employee’s representatives and we are very disappointed.
“But we will see how best we can address it. We are currently engaged in a survey to ascertain how many of our members remain unvaccinated and then we would be able to be in a better position to see how we can address this mandate that comes into effect on the fifteenth of December.”
While Belize’s Public Service Union take measures to support public sector workers, the government noted that this policy have been in consideration for some time. In fact, in October, Prime Minister John Briceno had warned that by year-end that all the frontline workers will have to be vaccinated.
Belize has recorded 548 deaths and 29, 269 positive cases of the coronavirus dating back to March last year.