Vaccination picks up after ‘No Jab No Job’ rule, but FLS calls for fair approach

Vaccination numbers shot up Friday, after Fiji Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama announced the Fijian Government’s No Jab No Policy stance to workers including civil servants instructing them to stay home today if they are not vaccinated, moves the Fiji Law Society (FLS) deem unfair and discriminatory.

Friday’s vaccination numbers, that was announced Saturday, exceeded 9,000, a new daily highest since the country’s vaccination drive began in March this year.

In making the announcement last Thursday, Bainimarama instructed civil servants who had not received the vaccine to stay home from today until such a time when they have been vaccinated provided it happens by 1 August. However, the FLS insists the directive is unfair in that whilst it prohibits an unvaccinated worker from entering the workplace, it does not prevent an unvaccinated person to enter the same workplace to access a service.

The FLS said while they understand the government’s motives to protect all workers in a working space and achieve vaccination targets with a view to returning to a normal state of affairs, the manner however they do not agree with. The FLS said that discussions should have been made with the workers and workers’ groupings to determine workable alternatives “which are consistent with the law and are clear…and prevent resistance and uncertainty.”

“Health is important but so are people’s legal rights. Those legal rights ensure we remain a free and democratic society,” the FLS said in a statement issued yesterday.

“Unfair discrimination is prohibited under the Constitution. In other words, it is possible to discriminate if the discrimination is fair, but what is ‘fair; depends on the particular case. The new Regulations rules effectively discriminate against employees on the basis of their personal circumstances or health status in breach of section 26(3)(a) of the Constitution.

“It may be fair to protect the health of all people in the workplace and to require all workers there to be vaccinated. However, it may not be fair in other circumstances. For example, it would not be fair if that workplace is a supermarket, and the same rules do not apply to customers. The Regulations prohibit an unvaccinated supermarket worker from entering the premises but does not prevent an unvaccinated customer from doing the same. In such. a case, the workers could also be exposed to unvaccinated customers anyway, and the regulation will not serve its purpose. In such a case, a court is unlikely to consider this discrimination to be fair.”

The FLS also raised concerns about the validity of vaccination timelines prescribed to workers to be vaccinated by saying it is “incompatible with an individual’s right to economic participation under section 32 of the Constitution and worker protections in the Employment Relations Act.”

Civil servants are expected to be fully vaccinated by 1 November. The same vaccination directive was issued to employers in the private sector who face closure of business if they do not comply.

Photo: File Photo

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