He told members of the press on Thursday, May 20 2021, that the matter also includes the rights of persons.
The matter has been a hot debate with the pending arrival of the cruise ships in June. Some cruise ships have already indicated that their guests prefer to interact with fully vaccinated persons in the tourism sector.
“This has become an issue for the whole world, and there are some governments that are making it mandatory, but we are seeing too that they are being challenged, and it is a matter now of persons' rights. I am a full advocate to encourage for persons to be vaccinated, but I am also mindful that persons have rights but at the same time, whatever we can do to make sure that we reduce or eliminate the spreading of this deadly disease especially with the variants, that we do it,” he stated.
Employers have been relying on Section 135 of the VI Labour Code, 2010 to justify their vaccination policy.
That section of the code states, among other things, that: (1) An employer at any workplace including a construction site shall ensure that, (a) a safe, sound, healthy and secure working environment is provided as far as is reasonably practicable; (b) the measures and procedures prescribed by the Code and the Regulations are carried out; (c) every supervisor and every employee performing work complies with the Code and the Regulations; (d) every reasonable precaution is taken in the circumstances for the protection of a worker; (e) reasonable precaution is taken in the circumstances to protect the general public who comes into contact with the work site…”
According to the Premier, Minister for Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration Hon Vincent O. Wheatley (R9) and Attorney General Dawn G. Smith are looking at the issue from a legal standpoint.
“In terms of what to tell the businesses legally whether they can or can’t, the ruling is still out with that, and I can almost say that in a few weeks’ time, there will probably be a statement coming out on that in terms of the legal findings,” he added.
Premier Fahie said he did not want to comment on what should happen in the meantime because the matter is still being examined, and it could make the government liable if his statement and the legal findings are not on the same path.
“In this position that I am in, sometimes your personal views are not mutually aligned with the legal views, and you have to be guided by the legal views when you are in these positions. So I have to wait until that comes out before I could speak to that full topic with the full legal knowledge and backing,” he said.
Just this week, following news that staff members at Leverick Bay Resort and associated companies were given an ultimatum to either vaccinate for COVID-19 or be subjected to third party COVID-19 testing out of pocket every 14 days, Company Director of Operations Sharon P. Flax-Brutus had indicated that the policy was shared with government authorities before it was circulated.
In a letter dated May 5, 2021, and written by Christina Yates, the founder of the group, she told staff that they now have a choice to either follow the policy or be laid-off.
Staff who refuse the policy will be laid off for an initial period of 90-days, according to the letter seen by Virgin Islands News Online.
In an audio recording obtained by Virgin Islands News Online (VINO), Flax-Brutus, a former Director of Tourism, told staff in a meeting that the vaccination policy was vetted before it was sent to staff.