'Why not others?': Businesses appeal for expanded vaccine mandate

Health and education workers are required to be vaccinated

'Why not others?': Businesses appeal for expanded vaccine mandate

The Auckland Business Chamber is asking the government why they’ve only selected the health and education sector for the pilot vaccine mandate in New Zealand. Michael Barnett, the chamber's CEO, said in a statement that mandatory vaccinations should be held for all workplaces striving to keep their employees and customers safe.

"If no jab no job is to be the rule for selected people-facing services by government order, then it certainly is a principle that business owners would welcome also by government order, as well as enabling urgent access to rapid testing technologies to better manage and reduce risks," Barnett said in a statement.

He was reacting to the government's latest mandate to get health workers fully vaccinated by December 1, and for education workers to be fully immunised by January 1. This is not the first time the chamber has lamented the exclusion of select businesses in government directives, as it felt authorities also excluded small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) from the rapid antigen testing in workplaces. New Zealand previously announced it will implement the use of rapid antigen testing at workplaces in Auckland and North Shore hospitals.

Barnett said it is an "insult to SMEs" that they are excluded from the negotiations over the implementation of rapid antigen testing in the workplace.

"Small and medium businesses have been deemed non-essential, shut down, short changed are short of cash and short on certainty. It has been the voices for small and medium businesses that has led the call for Government to make it easy for them to provide safe workplaces and antigen testing will be one of the tools for them," Barnett said.

Read more: Auckland Business Chamber slams 'unfairness' between big firms, SMEs

Education union welcomes vaccine mandate

Meanwhile, New Zealand's largest education union welcomed the mandatory vaccine mandate announced on Monday, adding that it "fully supports" the order.

"We have always encouraged our members to get vaccinated to help protect themselves, their colleagues and in particular our younger tamariki who are currently unvaccinated," said NZEI Te Riu Roa president Liam Rutherford in a statement.

Rutherford added that the union will be working closely with employers and the government to ensure the fair and safe implementation of the mandate.

However, the union also called on the government to disclose further details over its testing regime - which will require educators in regions under Alert level 3 to present a negative COVID-19 test before returning to the workplace.

"Testing will have to happen in school time, so will this be paid leave and how will their ratios get covered? Will educators be able to access priority testing? The Government needs to come to the table and answer these questions," Rutherford said.

"We and our members want a clearer path laid out on what the country’s new approach to COVID-19 will be. We need better communication from the Government and we need it quickly," he added.

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