Wednesday 5 October 2022

Private sector workers who refuse to vaccinate against Covid-19 could be fired

The measure will help restore normalcy faster, according to the business sector; public workers unions demand vaccination of civil servants be optional

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04 October 2022 - At The Banks - BCCR

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QCOSTARICA – If you work for the private sector and have doubts about getting vaccinated against Covid-19, you should know that with the announcement made Tuesday, your employer could fire you without labor responsibility if you do not do so.

The business sector said that it will support the measure as long as citizens seeking work have the opportunity to receive the dose.

During the September 28 press conference at Casa Presidencial, the government announced that the Comisión Nacional de Vacunación y Epidemiología (CNVE) – National Commission of Vaccination and Epidemiology – approved the obligatory nature of the vaccine against Covid-19 in the entire public sector and at the same time, left in the hands of the employers in the private sector the decision to demand the vaccine of their employees.

This means that, according to internal labor provisions, employers who choose to be compulsory could establish sanctions for employees who refuse to comply with the regulations.

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In this way, an employer would admonish the worker in writing in the first instance, then communicate a warning – warning the employee of the possible dismissal without employer responsibility – and later, would apply the termination of the contract in case the worker refuses, explained Marco Arias, labor lawyer, and partner BDS advisors.

“In Costa Rica, there is a legal framework, so that when vaccination is mandatory, the employer can demand it from its workers (…) In that sense, if an employee does not comply with the regulations and labor provisions, the corresponding sanctions can be applied,” Arias told La Republica, Costa Rica’s newspaper for business.

As for the public sector, that is all state workers of the central government and autonomous institutions, such as ICE, AyA, Recope, etc, the Covid-19 vaccine will be mandatory and in cases where a worker refuses to vaccinate, a disciplinary process would be opened.

Business sector supports mandatory vaccination

After the announcement that the covid-19 vaccine will be mandatory for all public employees in the country, the Costa Rican Chamber of Commerce (CCCR) communicated that it will support the measure as long as citizens seeking work have the opportunity to receive the dose.

“We received the communiqué from the Vaccine Commission where it obliges the public sector to have all its collaborators vaccinated and gives us the option, to employers of the private sector, to do the same.

“We agree with this guideline (…) We call on all Costa Ricans to go to the vaccination centers, so that the productive sector continues to produce and create jobs,” said Julio Castilla, president of the CCCR.

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The businessman emphasized that individual freedom ends when it affects the health of others. “That they allow the private sector to continue doing what we do well, which is to create well-being at work. That they give us that freedom without further interruptions,” Castilla said.

Being a public health problem, the decision of a person not to be vaccinated affects the community, so, from the work tables, the Cámara de Industrias de Costa Rica (Chamber of Industries) has encouraged this measure, considering that it could be the most effective to face the Covid-19 pandemic, instead of resorting to more restrictions.

“This measure goes in the right direction to protect workers and improve conditions so that the productive sector can operate, generate employment and regain competitiveness. We urge private sector companies to coordinate, motivate and request their employees to join the vaccination campaigns carried out in the country,” said Carlos Montenegro, Executive Director of the Chamber of Industries.

Workers unions with reservations

“It seems to us that the vaccine should be optional (…) You cannot force a person to be vaccinated if he/she does not agree. We believe that it is important to avoid contagion and the safer people are, the better for the country, but we have reservations about the obligation,” said Wálter Quesada of the Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados (ANEP), one of the largest public and private sector workers unions.

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Their concern is more on the mandatory vaccination for its public sector members, saying that the Executive Power is exceeding the rights that public servants have to have the freedom to make their own decisions.

The representatives of the ANEP and other unions agree that this measure should have been agreed upon beforehand with all civil society actors and thus avoid potential lawsuits or public demonstrations that harm the services offered by State institutions.

Quesada added that vaccination is a decision of each person.

Roger Muñoz, who heads the Banco de Costa Rica (BCR) workers union, said that they will be processing a series of provisions for bank employees to clarify their rights.

In the case of the Poder Judicial (Judiciary), Jorge Cartín, head of the Sindicato de Trabajadores Judiciales (Sitrajud), assures that the measures taken by the Executive Power cannot affect workers from other branches or from institutions with constitutional autonomy.

Pandemic numbers

Costa Rica suffers the health and economic consequences of the pandemic. As of September 28, a total of 528,077 people have been infected, of which 425,000 have recovered and 6,321 deaths related to covid-19 have been reported.

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