Africa-Press – Rwanda. Cases where some public and private institutions dismiss their staff from work because they are unvaccinated are growing. The decisions are exposed by the outraged victims who leak their letters of dismissal, which have often attracted mixed reactions from the public with some expressing sympathy to the victim while others believe that the employers’ actions are legitimate.
Under the current government guidelines, access to public places such as markets, places of worship, public transport, weddings and other social gatherings, requires proof of vaccination.
While nearly half of the country’s population of 12 million people is fully vaccinated, with two doses, questions still linger on whether it is legal to dismiss unvaccinated employees.
Africain Biraboneye, Secretary General of Rwanda Workers’ Trade Union Confederation (CESTRAR), says that employers should not terminate staff contracts on the basis of not being vaccinated.
“We have to consider this on legal grounds. There is no punishment without a crime. To date, it is not yet mandatory to get vaccinated in Rwanda, someone who does not take the jab commits no punishable crime,” he said.
There are labour laws that provide for the rights, responsibilities and prohibitions of workers, Biraboneye continued, “So, an employer has no right to dismiss a worker who is not vaccinated, however, we do not support non-compliance to health measures.”
He added: “We do not favour those who do not get vaccinated in order to fight against the pandemic which has had an impact on labour.” “However, there should be mechanisms put in place to create more awareness on the importance of getting vaccinated and health consequences of refusal.”
Talking to The New Times, John Bosco Bugingo, a lawyer and fellow of International Bridges to Justice, said that while vaccination is voluntary, an employer may put up safety measures according to the government’s Standard Operating Procedures which, in case of non-observance, employees can be sanctioned.
Legal practitioners say that if proven that the unvaccinated employee puts the lives of other employees at risk, then this could lead to dismissal on health and safety-related grounds.
For dealing with the case of complaints from dismissed employees, Biraboneye said that they handle such cases through usual procedures just like any other employment dispute. Normally, the labour union organizes harmonious employer-employee settlement of work disputes and if unsuccessful, the case can be referred to court.
Minister of Local Government, Jean Marie Vianney Gatabazi while speaking on the national broadcaster said that someone’s right to refuse being vaccinated does not surpass other people’s right to health.