By Otto Sam
In a piece last week, I pointed out that the State’s or government’s position to dismiss its workers for failure to take a vaccine is unreasonable, unfair, unnecessary, and uncalled for! We shared for example, schools being “low risk” areas relative to COVID-19 hence, teachers should NEVER have been placed as “frontline” workers. Children rate of hospitalisation is about 15-fold lower than other demographics… Dengue was a greater threat to our student population. Moreover, the research continues to show and experts involve in the development of the vaccines as well as experiences have shown that even triple vaccinated will get and transmit the disease making the dismissal a draconian, harsh and brutal measure.
In November, South Africa’s President had his full two doses and still had the virus. In December, West Indies and Pakistan Cricket Board cancelled their T20 and ODD International matches rescheduling to June 2022 because four (fully vaccinated) members of the T20 outfit (touring party) who were also in “bio-secure” environment tested positive for the virus while another five (fully vaccinated) members of the ODI Team also tested positive forcing the officials to do the sensible thing to reschedule the series. I just read over the weekend that US Congress Woman AOC who had her “booster shot” in the fall (completing her full three doses) had COVID.
Millions of these cases are occurring weekly the world over and BioNTech CEO was forced to go public and acknowledge that even the triple vaccinated are not safe/off target from the disease. So while we must continue to persuasively encourage citizens and workers to be vaccinated, it MUST NOT be an economic death sentence for workers, especially in SVG where we suffered much from other crises during 2020/21. The pain, hurt and injury inflicted on workers, their families and loved ones in unnecessary and should end now.
I am aware of the intrigue of the potential cases and how the court may/will interpret law and hopes will be high among the lawyers, unions and even some dismissed workers. I note that the government’s/PSC’s letters seems to suggest that some teachers (workers) resigned/fired while they were still working both online and face-to-face. Which charge does the PSC bring against teachers who showed up (face-to-face) with masks and negative tests results and worked up to the last day of last term? Which charge will they bring against teachers (for example) who worked online, were allowed to work and NOT DEBARRED from the school Zoom platform? Are the former going to be charged with “misconduct” a lesser charge which cannot result in “dismissal” or face the apparent pre-mature dismissal/resignation charge sent out by the PSC.
I am of the firm conviction that the stress, anxiety, drama and pain caused by these matters playing out in the court of law should be avoided. These workers and their families have been through too much for the past year and ought to be spared this pain and hurt. Yes, they may get justice and win but during the process some may have lost their lives through stress and high blood pressure! Some would have lost their children who they can no longer send to school. Some might have completely loss their health which they can no longer afford and some may have lost their properties which they can no longer pay for! Some may even have lost their sanity!
I am, therefore, recommending that the union opens dialogue with the Honourable Prime Minister seeking a settlement of the matter even as its counsel prepares to petition the court. These democracies are “prime ministers’” democracies and though he has been personally hurt in this nasty saga which caused him unnecessary injury (physical) last year and other injuries as the year went by, he has it in him to move past this re-employ the teachers (policemen…) and bring an immediate and merciful end to it. Also, the union should immediately write to Education Minister Honourable Curtis King asking him to intervene to stop the hardship and potential pain and suffering the teachers and all workers face resulting from their dismissal.
Bro. Curtis stood by teachers and workers in most/all struggles from 1975 — struggles/issues which were less detrimental to teachers, their families and society on a whole. Unlike one hundred of Boris Johnson’s MPs and Lord Frost, former Brexit negotiator, he doesn’t have to publicly condemn his government’s position or resign but quietly sit with his leader and PM and urge him to bring positive closure to the matter. Between that, the union should “meet the press weekly” having one of the dismissed worker sharing their and their families’ experiences since dismissal. Let’s hear from the single parent who CANNOT cope! Let’s hear from the diabetic who cannot afford her meds! Let’s hear from the stressed hypertensive whose “pressure” keeps mounting! Let’s hear from the teacher who the evacuees camp caused their pressure to go high last year!
Let’s end it now! For example, teachers (and other workers who were on the job at the time of the dismissal letters printing) should be paid their December salaries, while others who obeyed the “no entry” circular that threatened misconduct charges but worked on Zoom be paid accordingly, seeing they did not abandoned their work in the “real” sense of the word. Workers (teachers) with 29 to 32/33 years of service can be offered early retirement (with full benefit) paid within three months. Letters be withdrawn without any break of service for teachers and the time out since school restarted be treated as vacation or no-pay leave. All workers be encouraged to be vaccinated but also given the option of twice weekly or once weekly PCR Negative Result. I urge the parties in this to bring a swift end to this —end the pain for the poor and innocent!
The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].