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Mandatory Covid Vaccination ‘Goes Beyond’ The Law

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Attorney Wayne Munroe, QC. (File photo)

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

Attorneys yesterday warned that making it mandatory for Bahamian workers to take the COVID-19 vaccine “goes beyond what employers can do” and exposes companies to potential legal liability.

Wayne Munroe QC told Tribune Business that making a person’s continued employment contingent upon them being inoculated against the virus would create the basis for unfair dismissal claims to be brought against Bahamian employers.

Revealing that he is not making vaccinations compulsory for employees at his law firm, he added that doing so could also make companies “responsible” for any “adverse effects” or harmful reactions workers may suffer in response to being inoculated.

Mr Munroe, the Progressive Liberal Party’s (PLP) Freetown candidate in the upcoming general election, also said the policy of requiring workers who refuse to become vaccinated to take a rapid COVID-19 antigen test every five days - which he asserted one prominent Nassau restaurant is mulling - was “fallacious” given that the vaccine only protects those who take it.

He explained that, since a vaccinated person can still pass COVID-19 to someone who has not been inoculated, a company employing such policies would still have to test all staff to ensure everyone is protected.

Speaking after it emerged that some employers were making it mandatory for staff to become vaccinated, unless they could prove there were sound medical reasons for not doing so, Mr Munroe said: “I’ll express it like this. In my considered opinion, if the employee refused and they are terminated, that would be termination for cause.

“The employer would have to pay the employee notice and severance and, depending on the circumstance, they could claim for unfair dismissal.” Confirming that his law firm will not make it compulsory for staff to take the COVID-19 vaccine, he added: “As an employer, in my judgment, I’d have to take responsibility for any adverse effects the employee suffers.

“If you insist your employees take it, you’d be liable for any adverse outcome with the use of these vaccines. I also saw there was a policy where you take the vaccine or a rapid antigen test every five days. The fallacy with that is vaccinated persons can still get infected, and infect other persons. The vaccine protects you; not those around you.

“You still run the risk of vaccinated people affecting other people. That’s a fallacious policy. You have to test everybody to make sure vaccinated people don’t infect others. That’s the problem. For myself, I wouldn’t take the risk or engage in unnecessary litigation over a vaccine approved for emergency use. It only protects the person vaccinated.”

The issue of employers making it mandatory for workers to take the COVID-19 vaccine if they wish to retain their jobs surfaced when a note to staff at the Old Fort Bay Town Centre-based Sushi Rokkan restaurant, owned by Michael Scott QC, was released via social media.

The note warned staff that unless staff produced solid medical evidence as to why they should not be vaccinated by June 30, 2021, they faced potential reassignment or even termination if they failed to become inoculated.

Mr Scott yesterday said he had “smoothed out” any concerns at a staff meeting with Sushi Rokkan’s 30-40 workers, making it clear that “we’re not going to force” persons to take the COVID-19 vaccine if their doctor advises against it while warning that they should “find another job” if other excuses are invoked.

“The whole point is to save lives,” he added. “We had to set some kind of deadline. They understand it, and it’s clear what the regime is. People spend too much time downloading garbage from social media. That’s one reason why the vaccine roll-out has not been as efficient and effective as it could have been. The other one is that the Government does not have enough vaccines.”

John Pinder, director of labour, yesterday asserted the Government’s position that employers cannot make it mandatory, or force workers, to take the COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of retaining their job. He added that complaints had been made about four different employers, who he declined to identify, apart from one being based in Andros, and said: “I don’t know who Mr Scott thinks he is.”

Meanwhile, Obie Ferguson, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) president and a labour attorney, said the umbrella body and its individual trade union members plan to discuss the issue when they meet this coming Monday.

Arguing that Bahamian employers cannot lawfully mandate that workers become vaccinated, he told this newspaper: “That you must be vaccinated in order to work, that is going beyond what the employer can do. I don’t agree that the employer has the right to mandate employees to be vaccinated in order for them to work.

“You cannot make that a condition in order to work. To me, that’s illegal.” Mr Ferguson said he had received “many more calls than I expected” on the issue, disclosing that workers in Exuma and Freeport - as well as New Providence - had contacted him about the matter and how they should respond.

He added, though, that he supported workplaces being made safe by following the Government’s protocols of mask wearing, social distancing and sanitising.

Comments

JokeyJack 9 months ago

Human rights don't apply to Bahamian cattle. You've read the reports from the prison over the decades right? Remember that photo that was leaked about ten years ago and officials seemed more concerned about the leak than what the photo revealed?

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Emilio26 9 months ago

I'm surprised lawyer Fred Smith isn't speaking out against Mandatory Vaccinations.

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ohdrap4 9 months ago

Employee rights neither.

Employers have now figured out they do not have to even show up to the industrial tribunal hearing. And many do not.

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sheeprunner12 9 months ago

Government Department Heads included ....... the Industrial Tribunal is a toothless tiger ........ No one has respect for the IT & John Pinder

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rodentos 9 months ago

vaccines are not approved for general use, it is only EUA. Wait 10 years for long term studies then we can think about who has to take the vaccine. Until then only politicians should be forced to take one, since they are responsible for this mess.

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tribanon 9 months ago

Mr Scott yesterday said he had “smoothed out” any concerns at a staff meeting with Sushi Rokkan’s 30-40 workers, making it clear that “we’re not going to force” persons to take the COVID-19 vaccine if their doctor advises against it while warning that they should “find another job” if other excuses are invoked.

These words from Michael Scott really say all there is say about him.

Scott is wrongfully using coercion to force all of his restaurant's employees to be vaccinated while at the same time foolishing thinking he can pass off onto his employees' medical doctors the liability for doing so. Scott is a scoundrel of a lawyer who would love nothing more than to enjoin an employee's deep-pocketed medical doctor in any legal action the employee may rightfully bring against his restaurant for any serious harm caused as a result of a forced vaccination.

Scott is truly a deceitful weasel. He knows full well that no sane medical doctor in the Bahamas would aid and abet him in his restaurant's scheme to violate a most fundamental human right of its employees. The employees also know that no right minded medical doctor in the Bahamas would be willing to certify to them that being vaccinated is without the possibility of serious harm being incurred. It's clear that Scott must think all medical doctors are stupid. Perhaps that's because he's spent too much time around Minnis.

By the way, are Scott and his wife going to be insisting that all of their restaurant's patrons show evidence of having been vaccinated, even in instances where they may have already developed a strong natural immunity to Covid-19 and/or other corona viruses?

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tribanon 9 months ago

But our bigger beef with Mr. Scott should be the instrumental role he has played as Chairman of The Hotel Corp. of The Bahamas in the Grand Lucayan Hotel debacle. Minnis, Scott and D'Aguilar are the trio responsible for government having flushed upwards of $150 million down the proverbial toilet in connection with the Grand Lucayan Hotel property. These three instigated and oversaw Government's purchase of this insolvent rundown property from their Chinese friends (Hutchison Whampoa) at a hefty price tag and then proceeded to plow millions of dollars more into senior employee severence packages that should have been paid by the seller, and even many millions of dollars more into trying to fix up the property, not to mention the interest costs totalling many millions of dollars on the funds borrowed to do these all these things.

We were assured a few years ago by Minnis, Scott and D'Aguilar that government would have no difficulty in quickly finding a suitable buyer for the property at a much higher price so as to be able to pocket a nice profit. Well, that certainly didn't happen. And now this trio is telling us government is planning to effectively give away, yes, give away, the property to a joint venture led by Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. Many of old enough to remember the Pindling era no doubt also recollect the many corrupt deals that went on back then involved the Hotel Corp. of The Bahamas that cost our country many, many millions of dollars. If memory serves me well, Michael Scott was also Chairman of The Hotel Corp. back then when our country was saddled with debt and losses associated with the buying of hotel properties. With this in mind, one has to wonder why on earth did Minnis select Scott of all people to once again head up the Hotel Corp.

Then there's the matter of Michael Scott's apparent conflict of interest in drafting a writ and statement of claim for his law firm's client in the bankrupt local airline scandal involving K P Turnquest, then minister of finance, and his former business partner, Butler. At the time Scott was effectively a member of the government's cabinet and even though the alleged fraudulent activities were clearly intended to lasso both Butler and Turnquest, Scott only named Butler as a defendant in the legal action. That rightfully raised a number of eyebrows.

Yup, Scott just does not seem to be the best of characters and I therefore sympathisize with what his restaurant employees must be going through.

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whatsup 9 months ago

Why does pm still have emergency powers...to force us to take vaccine...make it mandatory? Probably will wait til after elections in May or June to enforce

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