Compulsory vaccination will 'add fuel to the fire', industry representatives say

The government's decision to introduce compulsory vaccination against Covid-19 for medical, social care and educational workers will divide society, according to sectoral representatives, Latvian Radio reported July 15.

The draft law, which has yet to be reviewed in the Saeima, provides not only for compulsory vaccination in a number of sectors, but also for the possibility of dismissing employees in other sectors an employee who is in contact with clients or who is relevant for the continuing activities of the company but has not been vaccinated.

The change in government is explained by the need for safe services to avoid Covid-19 as far as possible. The amendment states that the public's right to receive services corresponding to the highest possible level of epidemiological security is balanced against the freedom of choice of the person with regard to vaccination.

However, labor law lawyer Edgars Timpa finds more questions in the government bill than answers. The lawyer expects a lot of people to turn to legal aid regarding dismissals.

"Whether it is legal or illegal, the Constitutional Court will respond. If anyone thinks their rights have been infringed then of course they can file a constitutional complaint. I think it will be that way. But each case is individual and their proportionality between the rights of individuals and the interests of society must be assessed," Timpa said.

According to him, the government places a lot of responsibility on employers' shoulders. The lawyer thinks the employer will be put in a position to choose between a lacking workforce or a State Labour Inspection penalty.

It is also stipulated that the government will take responsibility if, as a result of vaccination, someone has side effects which cause harm to health or life. The procedures for granting compensation and costs should be adopted by the government.

Valdis Keris, president of the Latvian Health and Social Care Workers union, is concerned about the government's responsibility. On the one hand, this could appease those in the industry who are concerned about the safety of vaccines, but on the other, it has not been said how this responsibility will be expressed.

"The government has allegedly said it takes responsibility for the side effects that could be in the case of vaccination, but no legal mechanism has been established how it will be implemented. This shows the indecision and cowardice of the government. What I would like to see, not the escalation of the conflict, but on the contrary: the government should say very quickly and specifically, if there are side effects, all necessary costs will be covered immediately. The government hasn't done it, and it just adds fuel to the fire," Keris said.

Inga Vanaga, head of the Latvian Education and Science Workers Union (LIZDA), said the industry is still in favor of vaccination, but voluntary. In her opinion, the government has acted inappropriately in passing on draft legislation:

“It is a pity that the government did not even want to hear the reasons for non-vaccination and the solutions proposed, which would be a more favorable way, knowing how damaged the situation in the sector is now, knowing that it would be several hundred who would file their resignations because of such policies.”

LIZDA will continue to explain to Saeima deputies the reasons for not getting vaccinated and will call on politicians not to divide society. The Saeima has yet to decide on mandatory sectoral vaccination.

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