Kate Hawkesby: What to do about border workers refusing Covid jab?

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Wed, 5 May 2021, 11:02AM
(Photo / NZ Herald)
(Photo / NZ Herald)

Kate Hawkesby: What to do about border workers refusing Covid jab?

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Wed, 5 May 2021, 11:02AM

Call me heartless, but I don’t have a lot of sympathy for the border workers losing their jobs for refusing the vaccine. I don’t mind the fact you have a choice, and if you choose not to vaccinate, so be it, that’s up to you, but not if you’re a border or MIQ worker.

Because the risk there is too great, there’s too much at stake, we've come too far.

Sure, if you’re squirreled away in some non-contact, non-customer interfacing role, somewhere in a warehouse, or you’re a farm worker, or you’re self-employed and you choose not to vaccinate, no problem. But if you’re at the border, or in MIQ, surely you know by now that’s par for the course.

It can’t come as a shock, it’s been forecast that you’ll need vaccinating, and if not having the vaccine is that important to you, then it’s obviously more important than your job and you should step away from the role. I mean why take the risk? Why risk becoming THAT person, the border worker who refused vaccination and spread Covid. I mean, surely that’s worse?

Nine people have already lost their jobs due to not getting vaccinated, and according to news reports, 13 more people may get fired. MBIE figures show 97.4 percent of the nearly 5 thousand MIQ workers have been vaccinated. The ones who haven’t been are in line to be, those who refuse will have their employment terminated and two have already resigned.

I think resigning is the smart thing to do. If you're purely choosing to work a frontline job and not be vaccinated, then best you step down.

Where I do have sympathy however, is for those employees who CAN’T be vaccinated for various reasons.

That’s a tough one and in those circumstances I think it behoves the employer to make a really concerted effort to redeploy or make special leave provisions for those employees.

It’s through no fault of their own, they may well very much love their job and be happy to take the vaccine, but for medical or other reasons just can’t. I don’t think it’s fair that they go through a termination process.

So you can see how this is all a bit of a minefield. And where’s the line? How many jobs are going to insist on vaccinated workers and enlist punishment if you don’t? And how much pressure will be applied? Will it be a kindly suggestion from management? Or will it be full force pressure and expectation? Will some staff get vaccinated begrudgingly, just to keep their jobs, and in which case be resentful?

Ideally, you’d like to think this rollout for frontline workers is being done in good faith and those who refuse the jab do the right thing and resign, likewise those who simply can’t have it get redeployed.

But as we roll the vaccine out further, and pressure starts to mount in other workplaces to get vaccinated, it'll be interesting to see how much pushback there is from people who may not want the vaccine, but want to keep their job.