26 October 2021

Vaccine passports, mandatory vaccines on cards for Southland businesses

Southland businesses are having to consider a range of new measures to adapt to a “new normal” under Covid-19 restrictions.

At the beginning of October, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that the Government was aiming to introduce vaccine certificates from early November, and would look to mandate them for larger events such as festivals.

On Friday, she also announced a new traffic-light system that replaces the alert level system when 90 per cent of each DHB’s eligible population is double-dosed, with far more restrictions for those who are unvaccinated.

The Southland Chamber of Commerce is encouraging businesses to start consulting on how the introduction of vaccine certificates could affect them now, whilst regional development agency Great South is considering the issue of mandatory vaccines.

Chamber chief executive officer Sheree Carey said that once vaccine certificates were introduced it would be up to each individual business to decide if they are going to serve unvaccinated patrons or not.

However, slowing vaccination rates in Southland meant that businesses could be put in a situation where they were choosing between their income or their customer base

Carey anticipated that businesses that chose to only allow in vaccinated patrons would expect their staff members to also be vaccinated.

“There’s no point in saying ‘you can only come in if you’re vaccinated’, but then have an unvaccinated person serve them,” she said.

Raise The Bar Hospo Union (RTBHU) founder Chloe Ann-King said hospitality employers had a legal obligation to consult with workers who were unable to get vaccinated to find solutions such as redeployment.

However, RTBHU was overall in support of the vaccine certificate as it would increase workplace health and safety for hospitality employees.

“This is not just about workers themselves, it’s about everyone understanding when you enter a hospitality venue you’re entering a venue where overseas workers have statistically been more at risk of mortality due to Covid-19.”

Great South chief executive Graham Budd said the Great South leadership team had been discussing the issue of mandatory vaccination for its staff, but had not yet come to a decision.

Budd anticipated having a vaccinated workforce could be something that was required in order for the organisation to carry out its work going forward given vaccines will be mandatory for all staff at schools from January 1, 2022.

“It may come to a point where they say to us, ‘we don’t want to deal with you or your staff if you aren’t vaccinated’ … I think that will potentially be the case with many businesses,” he said.

Great South was considering the collective view across businesses and industries in Southland, including its shareholders, and did not want to make a decision on mandatory vaccination in isolation, he said.

E tū Union team leader Mat Danaher said it was important that employers did not think they could simply demand workers get vaccinated and that employers had a responsibility to engage with vaccine hesitant workers.

“A need to vaccinate a section of the workforce does not remove those worker’s rights under the Employment Relations Act or Health and Safety at Work Act or any other legislation,” he said.

However, he noted he had been contacted by more workers who wanted their employers to require vaccinations than workers who were vaccine hesitant.

Published by Stuff.co.nz – 24 October 2021.