Italian model

Employers, unions divided on CovidCheck in companies

At the moment the government advocates voluntary vaccination. (Photo: Matic Zorman/Maison Moderne)

At the moment the government advocates voluntary vaccination. (Photo: Matic Zorman/Maison Moderne)

The Luxembourg employers' association is reiterating its idea of a CovidCheck in companies, as Italy makes to make it compulsory for all employees from 15 October. The trade unions do not support the idea and are raising the difficulties of putting it into practice.

From 15 October, Italians will no longer be able to go to work without being tested, recovered or vaccinated against covid-19 as the country plans to make the health pass compulsory in companies. It’s a model that appeals to Luxembourg's employers.

"We had already launched a reflection on a simplified CovidCheck in companies,” says Jean-Paul Olinger, director of the Union des entreprises luxembourgeoises (UEL). For the time being, its application in companies in the Grand Duchy has not been clarified, although employers cannot request and store health data from their employees.

Penalties and financing

"If the employer must ensure the health and safety of their employees, customers and suppliers, then they must be given the means to do so," says Olinger. Protective measures already exist, such as distancing or barrier gestures. "These rules were put in place at a time when vaccines were not available.” For Olinger, the CovidCheck in companies would allow a "return to normal", to "reconcile public health and individual freedoms".

The model he envisages would be optional, unlike the one in Italy. Like restaurants, companies could decide whether or not to switch to the CovidCheck regime. But once the certificate is mandatory, it would be mandatory for all employees. As for financing the tests, for those who cannot or do not wish to be vaccinated, “we would have to see,” he says. "But why should the company fund the tests in the long term, when it's a choice people make?"

What if an unvaccinated employee refuses to pay regularly to be tested? Olinger refers to "other countries". In France, for example, employees in sectors where the health pass is mandatory risk losing their jobs if they refuse. Although the UEL director believes that "this may not even be a question, people are asking for a return to freedom.” As for the practicalities (CovidCheck control, frequency etc.), he imagines that they should "rely on the recommendations of the health directorate".

Another vision of CovidCheck in companies

Ernest Pirsch, president of the French federation of craftsmen (FDA), is also in favour of a CovidCheck in companies. It is a way of "protecting employees and customers" while simplifying the organisation. "It's complicated when you work in a team, the workers on a site are in the truck together,” he says.

The Health directorate still calls for "individual modes of transport" and "more vans" in its recommendations of 15 September 2021 to the construction sector.

Pirsch has no problem with companies paying for tests for unvaccinated employees. "It will be cheaper" than the current health measures, he says. He prefers a compulsory model in all companies, pointing out that on building sites, different companies work together.

An unjustified demand

On the trade union side, "we are in favour of vaccination, but on a voluntary basis. We are against compulsory vaccination in companies and against a compulsory CovidCheck, which would amount to the same thing and where there would be no protection of medical data," says Frédéric Krier, member of the OGBL executive board.

Christophe Knebeler, head of social policy at the LCGB, shares this view in case of a mandatory vaccination. However, he is "not totally against it" if it can be explained from a health point of view, "such as in hospitals, where there are vulnerable people.” He then asked several questions about its implementation. "For example, will an employee who leaves the office several times during the day have to present his or her receipt each time? This could make life difficult for them.” If the subject is to be discussed, "it will have to be a tripartite discussion,” he says.

We are against compulsory vaccination in companies and against compulsory CovidCheck, which would amount to the same thing.

Frédéric KrierMember of the executive boardOGBL

From the Italian to the Danish model

The cards are in the hands of the government, which for the time being advocates voluntary vaccination. So do the 7,417 people who have signed a petition against compulsory vaccination in Luxembourg.

"It will be a health and political decision," says Olinger. He adds: “If the figures are very low and a fourth wave does not arrive, perhaps another solution would be that of Denmark, which has lifted all restrictions” after having reached a 73% vaccination rate.

The ministry of health could not provide the share of the working population that is vaccinated. According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), 72.9% of the total population is fully vaccinated.

This story was first published in French on Paperjam. It has been translated and edited for Delano.