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IEU(SA) Position on COVID Vaccinations

Vaccinations are Australia’s pathway out of lockdowns and towards a fair and equitable economic recovery. We need high rates of vaccination to avoid ongoing serious health, economic, and social disruption from COVID-19 outbreaks. We stand ready to support and encourage the rollout and to support workers to get vaccinated as soon as they are eligible.

The IEU, like the rest of the union movement, is strongly supportive of people being vaccinated for COVID 19. This is to protect the health of everyone. Achieving this will require adequate vaccine supplies and convenient opportunities for delivery. Paid vaccination leave will facilitate a rapid roll-out.

Our approach is driven by union values. Union values are about solidarity, supporting and protecting each other, as well as the right for workers to be safe.

The IEU at each state and at the federal level has been advocating for school staff to receive priority vaccinations. The evidence and expert advice is that high vaccination rates will be an important component of our battle with COVID, especially for frontline workers.

As unionists, we fight for a healthy and safe workplace and a key part of that is to apply risk management. We treat COVID just like any other hazard. Getting vaccinated is the best thing we can do to manage the risk.

We would hope that the vast majority of school staff would recognise the need for vaccination as a way of fulfilling their social contract. Compulsion should normally be avoided unless situations become dire. If the majority voluntarily vaccinate, the spectre of compulsion becomes less likely. However emergency management sometimes dictates that various forms of compulsion are necessary.

We are not health authorities, so we follow the advice of the medical and scientific experts on health-related aspects of COVID-19. We defer to official health directives around such matters and do not believe that decisions of compulsion are the province of employers. Employers are not expert in this field, so we need to defer to those who are.

We believe that, unless a public health order is in place, medical decisions are a matter for individual’s acting on the advice of their doctor, not a mandate by an employer to gain employment or keep a job. Such decisions should be made by individuals and public health experts, based on the best scientific evidence and ethical considerations, and not by employers.

If employers become responsible for aspects of implementation then that must be done in consultation with the workers and their unions and not by decree.

High vaccination rates can cope with a small number of people who cannot be vaccinated and we would support those people in being exempt.

If people merely choose not to be vaccinated, for no tangible reason, that is not a legally defensible position where the direction is found to be reasonable. Nor do we believe it is a responsible position.

Whilst vaccination is an individual decision, and some people are hesitant or opposed to vaccination, the impact of that decision is not limited to that individual.

To protect ourselves, our colleagues, our friends, our families and our essential workers, the highest possible number of people should be getting vaccinated with urgency. Getting vaccinated is about supporting and protecting each other.

Glen Seidel