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torek, 7 decembra, 2021

Belgium: Employers call for strict sanctions against anti-vax health workers

By: V4 Agency

Employers demand tougher regulations and sanctions against healthcare workers who refuse to get vaccinated, but trade unions reject the proposal.

Employers in Belgium have called for strict sanctions against healthcare workers who refuse to receive the vaccine. Following the meeting of Codeco, the Belgian consultation committee, on 17 September, a decision was taken to mandate vaccination against the coronavirus for health workers due to low vaccination rates.

The move was justified on grounds that patients have the right to be certain that health workers providing care and treatment do not pose any risk to their health.

Employers, however, would go even further and want to sanction employees who decline the vaccine. Hospitals demand that they should be allowed to dismiss personnel who refuse to get the jab, according the Belgian paper L’Écho. To this end, employers have appealed to Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke with their request. The paper also reported that the Belgian National Labour Council issued a statement, revealing that employers and trade unions are at loggerheads over the issue. While employers demand strict sanctions against unvaccinated health workers, trade unions do not support the plan, with the FGTB, the largest Belgian trade union, explicitly rejecting the proposal.

Employers have also come up with a concrete plan to phase in sanctions, with a two to three month transitional period during which unvaccinated health workers could replace vaccination with tests, but after that those who still refuse to get inoculated would be suspended. For this period, up to six months, the employees concerned would not be paid, and if they continue to refuse vaccination, they would face even more severe sanctions, with employers suggesting that their contracts would be terminated. But trade unions disagree with both dismissal and suspension without pay, arguing that these sanctions are unjustified on the grounds of fundamental rights.

L’Echo reported that Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke has received the green light from Codeco to make vaccination mandatory for all healthcare workers, including those employed in the private sector, outpatient care, and nursing homes. According to Margot Cloet, head of Zorgnet-Icuro, which oversees Flemish hospitals, there is no time to waste as the number of cases per day is increasing in the country, so an increasing number of healthcare workers are affected.

However, a new law is needed to introduce mandatory Covid-19 vaccination for healthcare workers, France Dammel, spokesperson for Health Minister Vandenbroucke said, who hopes to have the regulatory framework in place by the end of this year or early next year. According to the minister’s press secretary, the main goal remains to convince health workers, but after a transition period, only those who have been vaccinated would be allowed to work. The length of the transition period has not been announced yet, but the Belgian daily understands that the government is thinking in term of weeks, not months.

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