The New Today


Is there any legal ramifications as it relates to termination of employment due to vaccination refusal?

Law isn’t an actual science for it deals with the process of Law making, Interpretation of Legal rules therefore it has nothing in common with science.

It all has to do with how well one can bring forward or present their argument and deliberate before the courts.

There has been a number of opinion pieces as it relates to forced or mandatory vaccination written by some well-respected legal luminaries across the Caribbean including the President of the Industrial Court in Trinidad and Tobago.

Although I’m a firm believer in harnessing diverse views from all specks of people “we must always remember that opinions aren’t facts.”

Some of the well known opinion pieces including Professor Rose-Marie Belle Antoine, former Dean of Law at the University of the West Indies and Professor of Labor Law and Offshore Financial Law.

In July 2021, an article by Professor Rose-Marie Antoine came to light in a number of local and regional newspapers entitled “Compulsory Covid Vaccination is Legal”.

In her opening statement, she said, “It’s a fairly easy sell for me to accept that mandatory vaccination is constitutionally legitimate and we have good precedent for it since we already have laws mandating vaccines for children’s entry into schools.”

She further expressed in her delivery presentation – discussion on MANDATORY VACCINATION which was organised by the Organisation of Commonwealth Caribbean Bar Association and the OECS Bar Association that “compulsory Covid-19 vaccine is justifiable in law” constitutionally or in private sector.”

Please note that for the past few months she has been writing and speaking in the media, giving her insights on the legal ramifications of compulsory vaccinations for Covid-19.

In a previous article dated June 13th 2021 that was published in the Trinidad Daily Express here’s what she said, “This is not a clear-cut legal question and there are good arguments on both sides. There is no law, precedent or policy which governs the matter at present. Labour law, public health and human rights issues intermingle and ultimately, what is reasonable and in the majority interest would likely prevail.”

“When the law is silent the assumption is that it is permissible unless the court rules otherwise.”

Grenada’s very own Dr. Francis Alexis, QC, Constitutional Lawyer, a former Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs and he also acted as Prime Minister, he too also expressed his opinion as it relates to Mandatory Vaccination in an article dated May 30th 2021 that appeared in the Antigua News Room and Searchlight Newspaper entitled “Gov’t could make Vaccination of workers Compulsory.”

In the article, he stated and I quote, “Based on the law, and Constitution, a court may likely be on the side of the state or private employer that makes vaccination of workers compulsory, once they have acted in a reasonably justifiable manner.”

Note well he was making reference to the St Vincent & Grenadines constitution and this is what he said, “In particular the Bill of Rights, and you see numerous instances where the Bill of Rights is limiting a protected right in the interest of public health.”

Earlier in April 2021, Ruggles Ferguson, a local Attorney at Law also weighs in and shared his views as it relates to demanding that workers get vaccinated or they must put their job on the line – speaking of the [Fundamental Rights and Freedoms] in the Grenada Constitution he reiterated that “NO RIGHT IS ABSOLUTE.”

He went on to state that in the absence of a law giving support to such policy decisions such actions by employers are unlawful.

Another local legal luminary Cajeton Hood, former Attorney General of Grenada also publicly expressed himself through his weekly write-up in THE NEW TODAY newspaper.

He made some relevant points on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and yes Grenada did signed on but he failed to mention what gives teeth to this important covenant is the signing of the OPTIONAL PROTOCOL which Grenada never signed on to.

So in terms of Grenada’s accession agreement it’s all well and good but in order to achieve the purpose of the ICCPR and to introduce the implementation of its provisions it would’ve been appropriate for Grenada to have signed the Protocol.

In terms of taking up cases to the UN Human Rights Committee — Grenada is a big loser, thanks to these so-called caring politicians who usually speak from both sides of their mouths.

Note well: Employers shouldn’t be mandating that their workers should get vaccinated as a condition for work. Employment is based on work performance, punctuality and skills etc.

As mentioned above by Professor Ross-Maria Antoine as it relates to justifiable manner are the termination of employees who refused vaccination for whatever health or religious reasons considered as justifiable?

Doesn’t people have inalienable rights, right which means it cannot be taken away?

Can the Public Health Act contravene ones inalienable rights?

I’m no legal expert but those questions are very relevant and needs to be answered by our legal minds. There’s a serious issue that’s being fought from two fronts — one is constitutional the other relates to Labour.

I’m no illiterate when it comes to the Grenada constitution which is the [supreme Law of the Land] again I would say law is not science because it’s all about interpretations.

Based on the assumptions made or arguments put forward by Rose-Maria Antoine and Dr. Francis Alexis as it relates to the structure of a few constitutions of some Caribbean nations, it is possible to mandate Covid vaccination as it relates to the Public Health Act.

I firmly believe there’s loopholes that can be explored and it’s only through the courts there can be redress of the issue of mandatory vaccination likewise the termination of employees.

There’s still a lot of uncertainty based on the opinions of Dr. Francis Alexis who stated that “a court may [LIKELY] be on the side of state or private employer.”

The Grenada issue is one of grave concern and I don’t believe it has been fully addressed by anyone as yet, the various NGOs has been very silent on the issue.

I was hoping Dr. Francis Alexis, our constitutional guru would’ve been outspoken on the issue but unfortunately he has been very silent.

SGU workers have felt the fist of their employer who decided to send workers off who refused to vaccinate, on no pay leave, while losing all their years of service/benefits following termination.

Let’s take for example the hiring of new recruits – vaccination can be made mandatory for these individuals before employment and it’s called CONDITION PRECEDENT but it cannot be applied for existing or established workers.

In industrial relations, an employer cannot unilaterally alter or change the existing terms and conditions of employment of workers, especially if there is a recognised majority union present at the establishment.

I believe the court is still there in redressing the ongoing issue and one of the employee or employees should file a lawsuit against SGU for violating the TERMS and CONDITIONS of employment and because we don’t have an industrial court here in Grenada the matter should be argued before a judge.

Brian J.M Joseph