Schweng (CESE): “Employers can refuse work to those who do not want to be vaccinated.”

The President of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), Christa Schweng, says it is “obviously possible” for companies to avoid hiring a worker if he or she does not want to be vaccinated against Covid-19. “As an employer, I can decide with whom I sign a contract,” says the President of this EU advisory body, which issues opinions to the EU institutions on behalf of employers, workers and civil society organisations.

“The worker,” says Schweng, “can decide whether he wants to work (for the company) or not” if vaccination is required to sign a contract. However, “It would have to be seen whether an employer wants only vaccinated people in his company”. “I don’t know what they will do,” she says.

Given the vaccination campaigns that European governments are starting to introduce, the EESC President does not believe that the injection should be compulsory “because a vaccine is an attack and everyone must decide individually whether or not they want it for themselves”.

She also believes that the first to receive it should be healthcare workers, “because they are the ones who are most easily in contact with patients”, and the elderly population at risk.

Schweng says that “the European Commission’s (EC) contracts with pharmaceutical companies to guarantee vaccines for the whole of Europe” have been “a good idea”, as “it would never have worked so well with individual member states acting alone”.

Brussels has concluded agreements with Pfizer and BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Sanofi-GSK and Johnson & Johnson and has concluded talks with CureVac and Moderna.

All vaccines must first receive approval from the European Medicines Agency (EMA), which has already said it does not expect to assess them before the end of the year at the earliest.

“This crisis has shown how important Europe and (…) European cooperation is” and “this is where we say that a European Health Union is needed,” says Schweng, just a month after taking up the post at the EESC after 22 years at the organisation.

The Austrian is the fifth President of the consultative body since its inception in 1957 and, of the ten leaders so far in the 21st century, the second woman.

“Whether you are a man or a woman is secondary. The important thing is to take the work seriously and to do it with enthusiasm,” says Schweng.

“Women don’t dare to do many things, and there are many things they don’t do. I cannot say whether the world would be a better place if there were women in power,” says the EESC President.

She has, however, appointed a man as her head of cabinet (Markus Stock), but the rest of her team is made up of women.

For the head of the EESC, which gives a voice in Brussels to the business and labour world, “what is always negative, in any case, is uncertainty. It is a fundamental problem for companies (…) not being able to plan”.



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