Lawmakers shrug off CovidCheck law criticism
Parliament set to vote controversial bill into law on Monday
By Kate Oglesby and Yannick Lambert
A parliamentary group waved through a law allowing companies to refuse workers access to the office if they are unvaccinated against Covid-19, despite criticism from Luxembourg's highest legislative advisory body and trade unions.
Meeting in a closed-door session on Friday, members of Parliament's Health Committee gave their backing to the bill with little change, setting it up to be voted into law during a full session of parliament on Monday.
As Luxembourg struggles to raise its vaccination rate, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel's government last week came out with new legislation to give employers the option of demanding a so-called CovidCheck certificate from workers. If approved, they could then withhold salaries from staff who refuse to comply, refuse them entry to the workplace, and even dismiss employees. Those wanting to drink, dine out, or go to the cinema will also have to comply with the new rules. Only the CovidCheck pass - which shows that somebody is fully vaccinated, has recovered from the disease or has recently tested negative for it - would be accepted, if parliament approves the bill. Banks could be set to lead the way in implementing the checks, the Luxembourg Times reported earlier this week. Luxembourg's ABBL banking lobby welcomed the move, while the state-owned bank BCEE, or Spuerkeess, is looking to use the CovidCheck system, spokeswoman Thorunn Egilsdottir said.
It is not sure which businesses could adopt the measures if they are passed. The Chamber of Commerce told The Luxembourg Times that it did not know how many companies affiliated with the business lobby plan to put the measures in place, while accounting giant PwC says it is still looking into it.
The proposals have come in for criticism from a range of bodies including trade unions and the parliament's de facto upper chamber, the State Council, which advises on legislation but whose advice can be overruled. The State Council, in an opinion published on Wednesday, raised concerns over the powers the new legislation would hand employers over staff who refuse to comply with a company's strict CovidCheck policy. It criticised the fact that lawmakers have deferred responsibility on whether to introduce the CovidCheck system to employers. The advisory body said that "the authors of said bill could have taken this decision themselves."
Some of the criticism has gone far beyond the boundaries of normal debate. Prime Minister Xavier Bettel told deputies on Thursday that he has had to step up his personal protection arrangements after receiving death threats.
"I get death threats and I have to get police reinforcements because someone tells me he's going to kill me or is looking for another bullet and a gun," he said. "I’m telling you about the most unpleasant of those threats, threats that I have received in the last few days.”