Home Essential support Why unions support vaccination – but not employer mandates

Why unions support vaccination – but not employer mandates


However, that does not mean being agnostic about vaccination. On the contrary, CUTA Secretary Sally McManus recognized high vaccination rates are necessary for safety at work and in the community and to avoid lockdowns.

ACTU recently launched a national vaccination campaign encourage workers to be vaccinated. He also advocated for effective access to immunization (including paid immunization leave).

CUTA Secretary Sally McManus. Credit:Paul Jeffers

This approach aligns with the World Health Organization, which does not support immunization mandates. Instead, the WHO advocates focusing on information campaigns and making vaccines accessible.

Encouragement and facilitation does not ensure that the workforce is 100% immunized (short term). But they can have more lasting public health benefits than forced vaccination.

Discussing and encouraging vaccination can be effective in overcoming vaccine hesitancy. For example, health sector union meetings have led many initially reluctant members to decide to be vaccinated.

CUTA’s focus on “uniting” people to support immunization, highlighting how immunization is “an act of solidarity”, touches on something deeply important. The two Pope Francis and the WHO Director General stressed that solidarity – a mindset that thinks in terms of community – is vital in the pandemic.

The BCA-ACTU statement calls on governments to “ensure that when mandatory vaccination requirements are needed (in a small number of high-risk locations), they are implemented through the use of prescriptions of coherent public health at the national level ”.

As the declaration acknowledges, making vaccination compulsory involves “serious decisions that should not be left to individual employers”. Any decision to limit fundamental rights is best taken by responsible public institutions, rather than by private entities motivated by commercial considerations.

Public health orders also give the community reassurance that these decisions have been informed by expert advice and that various stakeholders have been fortunate enough to be heard (as employer groups and unions have said). had with the federal vaccine rollout).

With the difficulties plaguing the deployment of vaccines, unions have focused on the supply of vaccines, especially for frontline health workers. ACTU and trade unions in the nursing and health sector have also Underline the unfairness of employers’ mandates when there are acute vaccine supply problems, such as with elderly care workers and workers with disabilities.

A nurse at the vaccination center of the Palais Royal des Expositions.

A nurse at the vaccination center of the Palais Royal des Expositions.Credit:Getty Images

The unions demanded that all workers be given paid vaccination leave (to get vaccinated and recover from its side effects). This would ensure that workers are not dissuaded from getting vaccinated due to lost wages. This is especially important for people in low-paid and insecure jobs (including casual workers who do not have paid annual and sick leave).

ACTU as well as transport, manufacturing and higher education unions insisted that workers be consulted on employers’ vaccination policies.

What is at stake is the fundamental principle of the workers’ voice. This principle is an integral part of workers’ rights, as recognized in the 1944 Philadelphia Declaration of the International Labor Organization, to: pursue both their material well-being and their spiritual development in conditions of freedom and dignity.


The voice of workers is also at the heart of occupational health and safety legislation, which requires consultation with workers and unions on employers’ vaccination policies. The idea behind it is that worker education and empowerment is essential for workplace safety.

Respecting the voice of workers is also essential to the collaborative approach to workplace vaccination advocated by the federal government and the Fair labor mediator. As the International Labor Organization has pointed out, such collaboration contributes to a climate of trust essential for the unprecedented workplace adjustments that occur during the pandemic.

We see union opposition to employer-imposed vaccinations as a framework of principles that puts public health at the center, along with respect for bodily autonomy, workers’ rights, fairness and democracy.

This approach may prove to be more far-sighted than the mandates of employers.

Joo-Cheong Tham is Professor at the Melbourne Law School, University of Melbourne.

This article is republished from The conversation.