Unions line up to slam Luxembourg's strict Covid pass plans
The government's plan to expand the use of the Covid-19 vaccine pass to the workplace could be discriminatory, several trade unions have warned, as parliament gets set to approve a new law on Monday that would increase the pressure on those who are not yet vaccinated.
New legislation, proposed by the government during a press conference last week, would give employers the option of demanding the CovidCheck certificate from their workers, as the country continues to lag behind many of its neighbours across Europe in vaccine uptake.
If employees refuse to provide information about their health status based on vaccination, recovery or testing, they could be refused entry to their workplace, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel said.
Only the CovidCheck pass or a certified antigen test with a QR code would be accepted from 1 November, if the bill is approved by parliament.
The union representing bank employees in Luxembourg, ALEBA, said in a press statement on Monday that the "choice to be vaccinated or not constitutes a real threat or source of pressure for employees", arguing that any such move could violate medical secrecy and the right to privacy and constitute discrimination. ALEBA's lawyers will study the new law in detail, they added.
Dismissal a 'no-go'
Representatives of workers in Luxembourg's large public sector, the CGFC union, also criticised the proposals, saying that penalties for non-compliant employees need to be more clearly defined and that firing workers is a no-go.
The latest interventions also follow criticism by the country's other large unions, the OGBL and LCGB, which have called for vaccinations on a voluntary basis, rather than through an "indirect obligation", OGBL president Nora Back told the Luxemburger Wort.
The aim of the new measures is to allow company bosses some flexibility in their interpretation, Labour Minister Dan Kersch told parliament on Monday. It would be left up to the employer to judge what would be the appropriate follow-up for an employee who does not comply with the obligations.
A manager could decide to order the employee to work remotely, issue a warning or even withhold the payment of wages. In the public sector, disciplinary proceedings or dismissal could even be considered, although the employee would have the right to appeal such a move, according to the bill.
The criticism by the trade unions echoes a call made by Gilbert Pregno, President of the Consultative Commission on Human Rights (CCDH) - which advises parliament - earlier this month. He urged the government to adopt a carrot rather than a stick approach, and said that putting pressure on people would be counterproductive.
Following Italy's lead
However, the government's position has found some support among business leaders. Jean-Paul Olinger, the head of the Luxembourg business lobby group UEL, said last month that the government should consider allowing employers to check their worker's vaccination status after Italy introduced similar legislation.
Claude Wiseler, leader of the Christian Democrat Party's (CSV) in parliament, told RTL on Tuesday that the government had failed to inform people adequately about the vaccination programme and accused officials of not doing enough to challenge vaccine-sceptics.
The government is set to launch a new vaccination information campaign in November, the Reporter.lu website reported earlier this week.
The new law also foresees the introduction of a health pass for restaurants, bars and other leisure activities regardless of the size of the group, a move which has so far divided businesses, with some owners expressing fears they could lose customers, while others have welcomed the move as offering increased protection for employees and customers.
Countries that have introduced similar measures, such as Italy and France, have seen a surge in vaccine appointments following the announcement of the measures.