The standoff between the government and the trade union movement is no closer to an end today than it was yesterday, with trade unions holding fast to their position that they are against mandatory vaccines.
In fact, one trade union leader Nirvan Maharaj of the All Trinidad General Workers Trade Union urged the Government to “hold its hand on the implementation of any policy of mandatory vaccination in the Public sector, until it can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt and not on a balance of probabilities, that the vaccine will eliminate the virus and stop an individual from contracting and spreading the virus.”
That is a tall order for the Government to meet and as far as this newspaper knows is not one that has been met by any government across the globe.
Mr Maharaj, if he is following international news would know that even scientists across the world can give no such guarantee.
In fact, the world is aware that while no one has claimed that the vaccine will “eliminate” the virus, what it does is offer a chance of life and a hope that even if one contracts the virus that there is a far greater chance of survival than if one is unvaccinated.
To throw out challenges like that at a time when the virus around the globe is getting worse is playing Russian roulette with people’s lives. For far too long citizens have had a choice, vaccinate or not. The choice is still there but this time with some conditionality.
Mr Maharaj and other trade union leaders, many of whom made the choice to get vaccinated, must know that they took the vaccine to give themselves and their families a chance at life.
That’s all it is.
There are all the peripheral issues that the vaccine-hesitant and the trade unionists are arguing to encourage people not to get vaccinated, but maybe the real crux of the matter is what is not being said - that maybe, just maybe the Government should offer cash incentives or other incentives for persons to get vaccinated.
If that were to happen would the trade unions then jump on the vaccine train?
Strangely enough, Mr Maharaj is asking the Government to build public trust in the vaccine by among other things, “giving an undertaking to accept liability, financial and otherwise for any adverse effects on individuals taking the vaccine, example private medical bills, loans and outstanding debts in the event of breadwinners of families being negatively affected.”
So if this is done according to Maharaj it “could certainly build confidence and give assurances to individuals, rather than forcing a vaccine on persons.”
So guaranteeing them some financial promise takes away their fears and concerns about taking the vaccine?
As of yesterday’s official figures released by the Ministry of Health- 2,973 people had died from the virus.
Mr Maharaj and other trade union leaders, must not bury their heads in the sand but should understand that people are dying. As a matter of fact, this country has the ignominy of having one of the highest death rates from COVID-19 in the world.
Surely as a country, we cannot be okay with that.
We cannot tell trade unions and their membership what to do, but we hope at the end of the day that good sense will prevail in these difficult times.
As one man told Guardian Media yesterday he got vaccinated “because I have a family to mind and if it is I out of a job they will catch their tail to survive.”
It’s one reason, but perhaps of even more importance is, the vaccine gives one a chance to live.