The Malta Independent 17 May 2022, Tuesday

UHM says PBS barring entry to employees who did not take booster jab

Saturday, 22 January 2022, 09:47 Last update: about 5 months ago

The UHM-Voice of the Workers said that PBS workers who did not take the booster jab are not being allowed to enter the premises unless they take a PCR test, paid out of their own pockets, once a week.

The “vaccination policy”, which started on 17 January, has been described by UHM CEO Josef Vella as “illegal” as it goes beyond the provisions of the legal notice which regulates the matter. The State broadcaster, however, is insisting it has every right to impose such restriction due to the nature of its operations and to “offer a safe working environment”, the UHM said.

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Vella said that “this policy does not reflect whatsoever the replies given last week within the Employment Relations Board whereby trade unions and employers were invited to submit their queries to the Superintendent for Public Health, the Occupational Health and Safety Authority and the Data Protection Commissioner.  During the meeting it was made amply clear that only those places listed in the legal notice are to take such measure. What is the point of holding these discussions, if some employers then decide to do as they please? Apart from fuelling confusion the PBS’ policy is of concern as it goes beyond the legal notice and impinges on workers’ rights,” he added.

According to the UHM, the vaccination policy which was communicated to the PBS staff last week by the human resources department states bluntly that “anyone entering PBS premises (employees, freelancers, producers and guests) [are] to provide a valid vaccine certificate. Otherwise “individuals seeking an exemption from this requirement for justified reasons, should provide a weekly negative PCR test to the Administration Department,” the policy states. However, the employee would have to bear the costs which start from €35 for a rapid test.

In practice this means that anybody who has not taken the booster jab is barred entry from the PBS premises unless they are willing to do a swab test every week.  Such measure is being justified on the grounds of maintaining “a workplace that is free of known hazards” to “to safeguard the health of our employees, their families and visitors, from infectious diseases that may be reduced by vaccinations”. However, no mention was made to the consequences which would be triggered in case employees would refuse to take the jab.

Asked by the UHM for an explanation, the union said the broadcaster dodged issues related to the legality of the policy and limited itself to saying that the decision was taken on the strength of “preliminary findings of an Occupational Health and Safety Assessment relating to the covid pandemic in its premises at this current stage”.

According to the PBS it is “well within its right to protect all of its employees and to offer a safe working environment”.  Yet, there are no provisions in the law which vest this particular type of employer, in this case PBS, with the authority to impose such restriction. The only places where such policy is to be enforced are bars, club or każini, restaurants, snack bars, cinema, theatres, casinos or bingo halls or gaming parlours, sports events, gym or fitness centres, public swimming pools, spas or saunas, organised mass events and exhibitions.

 

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