Business union welcomes vaccination debate

Prime minister Xavier Bettel (DP) has requested a debate in parliament on making vaccination against the coronavirus mandatory LIbrary photo: Romain Gamba / Maison Moderne

Prime minister Xavier Bettel (DP) has requested a debate in parliament on making vaccination against the coronavirus mandatory LIbrary photo: Romain Gamba / Maison Moderne

A Luxembourg business union has welcomed a move by the prime minister to have a debate in parliament on mandatory vaccination.

Xavier Bettel (DP) in December filed a request in parliament to hold a debate on making vaccination against the coronavirus mandatory. The government has so far shied away from the measure but has largely excluded unvaccinated people from public life with the introduction of the 2G or 2G+ CovidCheck regime for the leisure and hospitality sectors.

“It’s a decision that shouldn’t be made within a company,” said Jean-Paul Olinger, president of the UEL, a business interest group, speaking to RTL.

The Centre Hospitalier du Luxembourg (CHL) in August last year had said that it would only hire vaccinated staff moving forward while some employers, such as US asset manager Pimco, made headlines for requiring staff at their offices to get a coronavirus jab. Recruits joining Luxembourg’s army must also be fully vaccinated as of 1 January.

There must be a wider debate on mandatory vaccination, Olinger said. “And then we’re in a normal situation where the majority decides what we should do as a society.”

A Luxembourg human rights committee previously said that mandatory vaccination could be legitimate in light of the greater good and the damage suffered by the pandemic. Several medical associations have previously called for jabs to be required for healthcare professionals.

But the grand duchy has also been rocked by protests against vaccination and the CovidCheck regime. Protesters have gathered for weekly marches since the autumn. On 4 December, the gatherings turned violent for the first time as splinter groups stormed a Christmas market and vandalized Bettel’s home. The following two weekends, around 20 people were arrested in total during protests.

Health minister Paulette Lenert (LSAP) during a December press conference said that emotions are currently running high and that she would prefer for things to calm down ahead of a debate on mandatory vaccination. But Bettel pushed for a decision by mid-January.

Austria is planning on introducing fines of up to €7,200 for people who refuse to get vaccinated from February, with exceptions for people who cannot get vaccinated for medical reasons. In France, vaccination has been mandatory for healthcare staff since September 2021.

In Italy, healthcare staff have faced mandatory vaccination since May last year. Nursing home staff were added in October. The mandate is now being discussed for other professional groups, such as police officers and teachers. Greece, too, is obligating healthcare and nursing home staff to get vaccinated.

Employee and employer groups in Luxembourg last year had agreed to government plans to make the 3G CovidCheck system mandatory in the workplace, meaning that unvaccinated employees must get tested daily to be able to go to work. The system will come into force on 15 January.