A woman who described herself as a supporter of Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves for all her life has described as “oppression” the decision of his government to appeal the ruling in the vaccine mandate case.
Sheila Baptiste, whose daughter, a principal, was dismissed under the vaccine mandate that came into effect in December 2021, was among protesters outside the Financial Complex in Kingstown this week.
The Teachers’ Union and the Public Service Union called the protest in an effort to pressure the government not to follow through with its appeal of the High Court ruling that it had acted unconstitutionally in implementing the mandate.
“I just want to say this is oppression,” Baptiste told iWitness News. “I supported Ralph Gonsalves for all my life and this is the result? My daughter is out of a job because she chose not to take the vaccine.
“Come on! This is wickedness and I am calling on the prime minister to change this. Don’t appeal. Pay the people them. They deserve it. They worked hard and it is unfair.”
Baptiste told iWitness News that before the mandate, her daughter, who she did not identify by name, was principal of George Stephens Sr. Secondary School in Colonarie.
In a judgement handed down on March 13, Justice Esco Henry ruled that the workers dismissed under the mandate never ceased to be employed and are entitled to all pay and benefits that they would have received had it not been for the government’s decision to deem them as having abandoned their posts.
The judge also ordered the government to pay punitive damages to deter similar actions in the future.
Also on the picket line on Monday were a number of nurses in uniform.
“Currently, I am out of a job,” one of the nurses dismissed under the mandate told iWitness News, adding that she was wearing her uniform so that people would know her profession.
“I am a nurse who did not resign. I was forced out of my job. I did not resign. Legally, I am still a nurse and legally, I am still employed with the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” she told iWitness News.
Another nurse said she was in a similar situation.
“I will be honest and say I feel threatened by the decision that they are trying to make. They made a decision with the mandate but I don’t think that’s the right move,” she told iWitness News.
The nurse said that while she has a supportive spouse “it’s been a struggle” since she was fired, noting that she has two children.
iWitness News noted that some would people might say they cannot understand how a nurse or a healthcare workers would not take the vaccine
“In my case, I choose not to take the vaccine for medical reasons. I was not conformable because my condition was not stable,” the nurse said, adding that she had applied for medical exemption but was not granted.
“Persons who have underlying conditions, I don’t think it wise to take the vaccine because, to me, it’s like a foreign body they are putting into you,” the nurse said.
“Everybody’s body operates differently so you don’t know what are the side effects you are going to have afterwards or if it is going to further deteriorate the person’s life.”