Differential Treatment based on Vaccination Status

While we understand the concern to protect our island and prevent the spread of covid-19 and potential new variants, we must strike a balance. We cannot violate a basic human right – freedom of choice says Bermuda Industrial Union leader Chris Furbert.

The Bermuda Hotel Association (“BHA”) announced a mandatory testing policy that “all non-immunized hotel employees are to be tested every 7 days.” We do not agree with this policy because it causes division amongst our members and employees. No employee or person should receive different treatment based on his or her vaccination status.

We agree that testing be mandated to protect staff, guests and the wider public but all employees, regardless of vaccination status should be included in this testing regime. We do not expect that our members will be required to disclose their vaccination status – it is confidential information and a personal choice. By including all employees in this testing regime, you remove the separate classes of employees and potential for employees to feel discriminated against.

While a person’s vaccination status is not a protected characteristic in law, employees or persons may decide to remain unvaccinated for reasons that are legally protected, and we need to respect the decisions of everyone.

The direction comes from the top – the Government has set a dangerous precedence of different treatment based on vaccination status. We see it most recently with their decision to implement mandatory supervised quarantine for unvaccinated travelers, specifically returning residents and workers. If science has told us that the vaccinated person can still catch covid-19 and transmit the virus, why are we treating them differently from the unvaccinated person?

While the transmission risks may be low, the potential is still there, and we need to stay aware of that. We cannot penalize those that decide to make a different choice. This mandatory supervised quarantine will cause issues in the workplace; employees are not sure whether they should travel and if they do and are unvaccinated, will they be able to work from the quarantine facility; will they need to take an additional two weeks off? If the employee can quarantine at home, particularly those that have already been set up with remote working abilities, they could still sign in for work. It benefits the employee and employer.

We have watched as many companies have created vaccination incentive programs and we do not agree with these initiatives as it is borderline bribery and puts employees and the wider public under pressure to make a decision that should remain a personal choice. We do not support these bullying tactics. Employers, particularly the Government need to balance the risk of discrimination allegations against the benefits associated with decreasing restrictions for vaccinated employees/persons.

We encourage the Government and BHA to rethink their decision to mandate supervised quarantine and testing that treats unvaccinated people differently. The division that has blanketed the island is unnecessary, and harmony needs to be restored.
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