PIMEC, the Catalan business association for SMEs, has just put forward a proposal that will no doubt be controversial but could serve to open up debate among employers, unions and the health authorities: should workers who do not have the Covid certificate be suspended from their jobs without pay? The association general secretary, Josep Ginesta, has set out the position of small and medium-sized enterprises: if a worker decides that they will neither get vaccinated nor take a test before accessing the workplace, their employment contract and wages should be suspended, given that they are thereby refusing to do their part in the common interest and in protecting everyone's health.
It’s a drastic measure, for sure. But one that, because of the importance of those promoting it, deserves in-depth analysis and debate. The awkwardness of such a controversial decision should not be resolved by looking the other way and it would be good to hear the position of the Catalan health authorities and minister Josep Maria Argimon as the figure responsible for them all. PIMEC has complained that the health department has so far not wanted to discuss the proposal with them and if this is so it is a mistake, because any social agent deserves to be heard, even if their proposal is at odds with what others might think.
PIMEC estimates that there are about 300,000 unvaccinated workers in Catalonia and that in other European countries, such as Italy and Austria, where this debate has already begun, a measure which in practice is virtually a mandatory Covid certificate has been implemented since September. Italy and Austria are countries with levels of full vaccination lower than what Catalonia currently has. Among Italians, almost 71% of the population have had their two jabs and in Austria the current percentage goes no higher than 62%; in Catalonia, over 75% of the population have had their Covid shots, although since the end of August, significant further increase in the total vaccinated percentage of the population has been very difficult to achieve, because among the under-40s there are several age groups where the fully vaccinated proportion is much lower than average and where resistance to having the Covid shots can be seen.
At a time when virtually all activities have been reopened in Catalonia and all the restrictive measures prieviously in place have been lifted - on Sunday, for example, the first football match was played at the Camp Nou stadium without any crowd restrictions, the Catalan administration is obliged to do all it can to prevent these gains from coming undone. The vaccinated population has already met its obligations and followed the recommendations given. This large group can do no more and if the current Covid data gets worse again, for whatever reason, no doubt the administration will have to intervene in the matter - even if the measures cause discomfort, whether political or any other kind.