Vaccines are essential but employment rights must be protected

The government has made vaccinations mandatory for border and MIQ workers. The Public Service Association says unvaccinated border staff should be redeployed, and their employment rights must be protected.

The union will closely monitor any such process and represent members involved. Thousands of public servants were redeployed to new roles in 2020, where some remain, and the government’s ability to effectively organise this has grown accordingly.

“Vaccination is a health and safety issue and a form of collective action. It works best when everyone takes part, so we want to see every border worker who is able to, get the vaccine,” says PSA National Secretary Erin Polaczuk.

“There are overworked and understaffed teams throughout the public sector, which means there are plenty of areas where unvaccinated workers could be redeployed through a fair, negotiated process.”

As the rollout continues, the PSA encourages employers to communicate clearly, early, and often with staff about the vaccine. Workplaces should make it easy to access without losing pay or using up leave.

The union notes that even with all border workers vaccinated, complacency is dangerous and other safety measures must continue.

“PSA members on the border take safety very seriously. They don’t want to get infected, they don’t want to infect their mates, and that’s why they’ve done such a fantastic job keeping Covid-19 out of our country,” says Ms Polaczuk.

“Unfortunately, they don’t always feel listened to. Border staff have spent the year calling for work bubbles in our airports, but progress has been uneven and slow. Health and safety policies are always most effective when you involve workers in designing and implementing them.”

“We’ve seen people become a lot more comfortable about the vaccine once they know a colleague, friend or family member who’s had it. If employers remove every barrier and support staff to get vaccinated, the overwhelming majority will do it. Those who don’t can do useful work elsewhere, with their privacy and employment rights respected.”

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