BIU pressures Government to drop mandatory quarantine
The Bermuda Industrial Union today put pressure on the Government to change its policy to force unvaccinated arrivals to undergo a mandatory two week supervised quarantine.
The union also asked the Bermuda Hotel Association to rethink its requirement that non-immunised hotel staff should be tested for the coronavirus every seven days.
The BHA said the policy was introduced to “ensure that all non-immunised hotel employees are aware of their health status as a means of protecting themselves, their co-workers, family members, visitors and guests, as well as all members of the wider community”.
But Chris Furbert, the BIU president, insisted: “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.”
Mr Furbert said: “We do not agree with this policy because it causes division among 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.”
Mr Furbert added: “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.”
Mr Furbert said that the direction came from the top and that the Government had “: set a dangerous precedent of different treatment based on vaccination status”.
He added: “We see it most recently with their decision to implement mandatory supervised quarantine for unvaccinated travellers, 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 penalise those that decide to make a different choice.”
Mr Furbert predicted the mandatory supervised quarantine would cause problems in workplaces.
He said employees were not sure if they should travel and that “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?”
Mr Furbert added: “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 programmes 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.”
Mr Furbert said: “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.”
A BHA spokesman added: “The Bermuda Hotel Association have noted the details of the earlier press release today by our social partner, the Bermuda Industrial Union.
“We wish to confirm that the Bermuda Hotel Association had an agreement in principle with them and it is unfortunate that the BIU would appear to have now changed their position.”
The spokesman said that the BHA would require all hotel employees to join the SafeKey scheme from next Tuesday.
He added: “We will be working with the BIU in the coming days to advance our collective goal of achieving a safe workplace for our tourism professionals and a safe visitor experience for our guests.”