Trinidad and Tobago – Workers Leaders Cautious On Covid 19 Edict

Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh’s call to trade union leaders to back the national vaccination drive has fallen on deaf ears.

Speaking at the launch of the mass vaccination site at the National Academy for Performing Arts, Port of Spain, on Friday, Deyalsingh said the country’s hope of achieving herd immunity will require much more than a government-public partnership.

He reminded religious, community and union leaders of the important role they play in seeking the best interest of the working class.

“The clarion call is for leadership. Leadership because people look up to you for guidance, whether you are union leader, councillor, MP – people look to you for guidance, and the guidance you must give is that vaccines are safe, effective and they would save your lives. There must be a collective sense of vision and unity of purpose that we can do this.”

He urged: “Talk to your flocks, talk to your memberships, talk to your villagers in every nook and cranny. The life you save may just be your own.”

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While some unions shied away from directly stating their stance on joining the vaccination drive, Public Services Association (PSA) president Watson Duke made his clear.

“I think it’s unpatriotic. To ask the trade unions to become involved in the mantra ‘Vaccinate to operate’ is ludicrous. The PSA will not become involved in such.

“I’m no anti-vaxxer, I support vaccination,” he said, but added, “They are trial vaccines and I don’t support it. I would become an advocate of covid19 vaccines when they are much safer, with less life-threatening side effects.”

He said his members can take the vaccine if they choose to.

National Trade Union Centre general secretary Michael Annisette told Newsday he will not join the government in the vaccination campaign. He said vaccination is a personal choice.

“We believe that all the facts of the vaccine should be placed in the domain so the public can make an informed decision with regard to the vaccine.

“We are not telling people to take it or not to take it. We believe it is a personal choice of each individual of the country.”

When asked if the TT Unified Teachers Association is on board, president Antonia De Freitas said her members were given all the information needed to make the best decision.

“We have been sharing the information with our members. It’s a personal choice and recently we have been asking for our members to be allowed access to the vaccine…So any educator wanting the vaccine is free to do that, and we have continually shared with our member’s information on the vaccination sites.”

President of the Police Service Social and Welfare Association Gideon Dickson told Newsday, “I have double-vaccinated and have demonstrated my belief in vaccination.

“Presently, there are no mandatory laws. But we respect individual rights to choice and encourage our members to do the necessary research and make informed decisions.”

OWTU president general Ancel Roget could not be reached for comment.

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