Employers in favour of compulsory vaccine for workers

Business association Foment del Treball wants similar measures to Italy

3 min
Josep Sánchez Llibre, president of Fomento, in an archive image.

BarcelonaThe debate on whether or not to force workers to get vaccinated against covid-19 is back in the spotlight. Last Thursday Italy approved a decree that forced all employees in both public and private companies. as well as the self-employed, to get a covid pass from October 15. This shows that they have received at least one dose of the vaccine or that they have had the disease. This Monday morning, it was the president of the Catalan employer association Foment del Treball, Josep Sánchez Llibre, who spoke in favour of applying this measure in Spain in an interview with TVE: "There is a 3% or 4% of the Spanish and Catalan workforce that could have got vaccinated and has not done so, and this can hinder companies' full economic recovery," he said. Then he added: "I think it would be good to make it compulsory, but it is a decision that is in the hands of the government and doctors".

In Italy, if a worker is not vaccinated or has not had the virus, they will have to undergo a test every two days, which will be recorded on the covid certificate. If this document is not presented or is falsified, the employee will face a fine of up to €1,500 or a temporary suspension from work and pay, but in no case would he be fired.

But could the measure be passed by decree in Spain? "With a simple decree it is very difficult, since it affects fundamental rights such as individual autonomy, health, privacy ...", explains Augusta Abogados labour lawyer and UOC lecturer Pere Vidal. A ruling by the National High Court in September 2010 already made it clear that compulsory vaccination could only be carried out for specific groups, such as health personnel or the army, and for all purposes for certain trips abroad or as a condition for entering Spain. The lawyer goes further and recalls that the Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine establishes the principle of the "primacy of the human being", which says that the interest and welfare of the person "must prevail over the exclusive interest of society and science". In view of this situation, then, according to this labour lawyer, the legal formula that would best meet the proportionality test that any measure restricting fundamental rights must pass would be to make this compulsory only in some specific employment sectors. "They would have to be sectors especially exposed to risk, but in no case could it be a general measure", insists Vidal.

However, he also explains that the Supreme Court's recent decision to allow Galicia's regional government to establish the covid pass as a requirement to enter restaurants and nightclubs opens a small crack to do so by decree. "The sentence says that fundamental rights can give way to other (non-fundamental) rights or even general programmatic principles," the lawyer points out.

Italy is the first state in the European Union to take such a measure. Only employees who work from home are exempt. However, in Greece, unvaccinated workers are obliged to undergo a test on a regular basis and in the United States vaccination is also mandatory only among public employees and employees of large companies. There are also other countries where the law requires vaccination for citizens of legal age, such as Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, but these are exceptional cases.

The airport

In addition to vaccination, the president of the employers' association has also made an appeal to the Spanish and Catalan governments regarding the expansion of El Prat airport. Although the project has already been shelved by the central government, Sánchez Llibre says there is still time for the two governments to resume negotiations on the project in the next ten days, before the deadline of September 30, when the new Airspace ordinance will be approved. "There are still ten days until the 30th; ten days in politics is long", insisted Sánchez Llibre, who reiterated the need to expand the airport so that Barcelona does not become "a local capital instead of an international one". "If it is postponed for five years there will be political responsibilities," he added, referring to the upcoming elections.