Private sector taking tough steps to push workers for Covid-19 jabs in Sindh

Published July 21, 2021
A resident receives a dose of the coronavirus vaccine, at a vaccination center in Karachi on March 22. — Reuters
A resident receives a dose of the coronavirus vaccine, at a vaccination center in Karachi on March 22. — Reuters

KARACHI: The slow pace of Covid-19 vaccination, unwillingness of large number of people and growing pressure of authorities has pushed several private businesses and industries to take the same line adopted by the Sindh government. They have threatened to stop salaries of the employees who refuse to get themselves inoculated, while many have made it clear to their staff that they would lose their jobs if they fail to produce evidence of their jabs within a specified period, officials and sources said.

Law experts, however, called for legal cover to back the Sindh government’s move as well as the steps for private businesses. However, the situation remains unclear whether or not the government has done its job for proper legislation before introducing such harsh measures.

Owners and management of private businesses are gradually taking harsh measures warning their workers to get the jabs at the earliest to keep their jobs safe.

They refer to the growing pressure from the Sindh government as the reason behind their move, arguing that the provincial authorities had already notified that industrial units could be inspected at any time to check the vaccination certificates of workers.

Law experts unclear about govt’s legal cover to force people to get vaccinated

“Similarly, the export-oriented industry is facing another kind of threat,” said a senior executive of one of the country’s largest garment producers with more than 2,100 employees at its three different production units.

“Apart from local authorities, our international buyers also now want our staff completely vaccinated. So we have formally asked our workers to produce documentary evidence of their vaccination by mid-August or face consequences. These consequences include long leaves without salary or termination from jobs,” he said.

Such measures sound harsh but what exactly the law says about these moves is unclear.

The pandemic has already gone on the rampage in the world and brought many economic powers to their knees infecting nearly a million people and killing nearly 23,000 in Pakistan alone.

Sindh High Court Bar Association president Barrister Salahuddin Ahmed would “imagine” that the government would have done its job before making such things mandatory.

“If we talk about potentially, under the Constitution, such measures are crucial and necessary for the larger good of the people,” he said. “But I would imagine that the government would have also got some kind of legal cover to justify its move like we have seen in the vaccination of polio. If it hasn’t yet, then it can be looked into what the existing law says in this scenario. For private businesses, naturally they can be directed by the government to ensure the vaccination of their workers,” he said.

As the question about the effectiveness of such moves both from the government and private businesses remains, some have come up with innovative ideas to get their workers vaccinated and have completed the target using tools to encourage people instead of threatening them.

“We preferred to use carrots, not stick,” said Nadeem Rehmat, chief operating officer of a local pharmaceutical firm, Pharmevo, which has completed vaccination of all its 600 workers.

“We first launched the campaign from the top. Our management got the jab first and then the second tier of the company. In the second phase, we arranged counselling sessions for our colleagues and finally we announced different incentives for employees who were vaccinated. We held weekly lucky draws and through that distributed prizes among the vaccinated workers,” he said.

Published in Dawn, July 21st, 2021

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