Leaders make a difference to a vaccination drive. When they take a public vaccination, they send a message to their followers or employees that the vaccine is safe and the compassionate thing to do.
When leaders act responsibly in this way, others will follow. This behaviour modelling fits into a broader study that demonstrated that leading by example is effective (Tai Yaffe et al, 2011).
The vaccination level within an organisation speaks about the leadership and employees’ risk tolerance levels and demonstrates how cohesive the organisation is. It projects the employees’ likelihood to take ‘bad’ risks that can jeopardise the organisation in other areas. We should use this lens to look at the data revealed by Dr Keith Rowley last Saturday.
In April 2021, the then Minister of National Security declared that 3,000 vaccines (15% of the combined membership) were allocated to the protective services as a first tranche. We had pictures of the leaders of each arm taking their shots.
As the disciplined core units within our society, these services have mustered only 37% of their total strength. Less than the national average. How can this be? What does it say about their leadership and cohesion?
How did the URP team, roughly the same size as the police service, get up to a 60% level? For most of the period, the police service had one of the best communications operations.
The Ministry of Health data was revealing: in the South-West RHA, a whopping 80% of staff are vaccinated. This performance compares to 50% in the Tobago RHA, which is on par with the North-Central and the North-West RHAs. One of these has a high profile leader. To what end?
Why do the Republic Bank and the petrochemical sector’s vaccination rates exceed 80%?
OWTU president-general Ancel Roget made an essential point about the latter—it is couched in their health and safety ecosystem. All businesses justify their decisions on which risks to accept. These vary according to the type of company making the decision.
The foremost duty of care is to provide a safe workplace for employees and those they encounter. Republic Bank understood the risk of infecting clients as well as employees.
It is at this point that top leadership comes into the picture. Ricky Ponting, a former Australian cricket captain and one of the game’s most successful leaders, recently criticised the English captain Joe Root’s management of his team thus:
“Whose job is it to make them change? Why are you the captain then? If you can’t influence your bowlers on what length to bowl, what are you doing on the field? That’s what captaincy is all about.”
That is the same challenge for our Government, business and trade union leaders. If they cannot lead their team, what are they doing?
What is happening on our field? Between July and October, the average number of persons in our hospitals was just around 300, with average deaths at 6.9 (2.3%). When the average number of cases increased in November (451) and December (517), the average number of daily deaths increased to 15 and 22, respectively (3.4% and 4.3%).
The hospital system appeared unable to cope once the hospitalisation level passed 400, so more people died. We do not know how many persons are unable to access adequate health care because of this crisis. How do our leaders process this carnage?
Dr Rowley issued a policy statement for the public service. One expected that the Chief Personnel Officer would be the executor of this initiative. The trade unions rushed to see the Prime Minister, fashionably labelled a ‘dictator’. Why? Are they not entrenching the thing they detest?
Why is Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi inserting himself in a trade union matter? Does he not have enough work?
Who is the communication adviser of the Government? Like the West Indies cricket team, they snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Consultation has a specific meaning in labour law and must be observed. Discussions with trade unions have their particular language. Slipshod politicised language is harmful.
But the Government is not alone. We have a prominent vaccinated leader who, like England football manager Gareth Southgate, said: “I’m not going to get too involved in this … I’m not going to town on things like the vaccine… Our only way out is the vaccinations, certainly for the vulnerable people… but I couldn’t be sure I am on the right side. I am comfortable that I’ve had the vaccine.”
Our poor nation lacks leaders. We will get herd immunity either by infection or death. The blood of our citizens will rest on the hands of all our leaders.
None will be immune.