Let’s talk about work and let’s talk about local government

It’s now more than two weeks since LGNSW and the three unions met to put together a joint statement to the industry providing guidance and leadership - just like we had when Covid burst onto the scene in 2020, when it was easy and we were all in agreement. No pussyfooting then. At that meeting we’d provided advice from our go-to barrister Ian Latham from Denman Chambers because the employment issues hinge on whether the employer can provide lawful directions for employees to be vaccinated before they return to work.

There have been cases where ill-informed individuals argued that the flu vaccination, being forced upon them in their healthcare role was a conspiracy, or some other fantasy, just like the anti-vaxxers we see in this argument. A series of cases have found it to be a lawful and reasonable direction. It is a reasonable expectation that the out-of-control spreading COVID can only provide a more compelling reason for employers to lawfully direct employees to be vaccinated before they return to work.

depa supports mandatory vaccination, with a reasonable timetable, given the difficulties in supply of the vaccine, and four weeks should be sufficient. We know there are councils providing access to vaccination for the employees, and those councils will be able to make it mandatory with a lesser period of notice.

depa supports councils making vaccination mandatory before a return to work and we will support councils responding to individuals deciding they won’t be vaccinated, by not allowing them to work until they are. Employees can take their own leave but there are no other payments available.

depa does not support individuals having the right to refuse a vaccination if they want to return to work, because they put at risk their workmates and safety in the workplace.

Employers have a huge risk to manage. The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 imposes onerous responsibilities on New South Wales employers and massive fines for failures to provide safe work and a safe workplace.

In the absence of some statements and leadership about what is appropriate and allowable from LGNSW, councils are being left to their own devices, and the more courageous councils are looking after their own staff and their own communities. Stop pussyfooting around, kill the virus off once and for all.

More than two weeks later there is still no agreement, and maybe we will never get the joint statement, but there are councils already making mandatory vaccinations for employees covered by Public Health Orders, working in child care and other services, those classified as authorised workers and out and about on construction sites, and other areas of important local government work where services need to be provided but employees protected.

We have members as authorised workers, and for those who weren’t vaccinated already, we’ve provided links to a specialist and targeted vaccination regime for those workers who do need to be at work.

Universal vaccination is the only way to kill the virus once and for all. Members of our Committee of Management are either fully vaccinated or in the process of being vaccinated and we urge you to get vaccinated. And apart from anything else, like making sure your friends and family are safe, when it comes time to return to work, or to the office, the Council may not let you in unless you are.

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