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Antigua court dismisses challenge to mandatory vaccination

Antigua court dismisses challenge to mandatory vaccination

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ST JOHN’S – The Antigua and Barbuda government welcomed a court ruling that dismissed an application by a union representing public servants which sought to challenge the government’s policy on vaccination against the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Attorney General and Minister of Labour, Steadroy Benjamin, said the move by the Antigua and Barbuda Public Service Association (ABPSA) “had no merit.

“I am not surprised at the decision. In my view the action was frivolous, vexatious and had no merit. It was bound for failure and as I said in parliament, any matter by any other organisation will have the same result,” he said, give the COVID situation in Antigua and Barbuda.

The ABPSA is among a number of unions that have sought to challenge the vaccine mandate and during the hearing on Monday, the court dismissed the matter on the grounds that the association does not have the authority to put forward the motion give the current state of emergency (SOE) and that and further, the ABPSA is not a recognised or registered body.

Last month, the union filed a petition for judicial review after indicating that the mandatory vaccination policy was unreasonable, irrational and disproportionate.

It also sought a stay of the implementation of the policy pending the final determination by the High Court.

ABPSA president, Joan Peters, speaking on Observer Radio here confirmed that the matter had been dismissed, explaining also why the union is not a registered entity.

“Because of the COVID, we were not able to have conference for the last two years and when we set up a conference this year…it did not come off because just as we were about to have conference the COVID story start again and they cut down …and we were unable to have conference.

“That caused us not to be duly registered,” she said, noting the procedures that had to be followed in getting approval.

“It is just a little technical part of it…but I can say we won in terms of saying we were able to take the matter to court,” she told radio listeners.

The government has warned that the salaries of those public sector employees who remain unvaccinated will be withheld – unless the employees can provide a valid medical exemption – while they remain away from work.

Trade unions here have taken legal action to get the government to reverse the policy, claiming that the vaccine mandate is too harsh. (CMC)