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WA workers say they’ll quit rather than comply with vaccine mandate

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The WA Government introduced the vaccine mandate last month, which will soon affect 75% of the workforce — one of the most widespread requirements to date in the nation.

Health authorities say the benefits of being vaccinated far outweigh any potential risk.

It has left some businesses uncertain as to whether they can fill the gaps in their workforce, and has put people hesitant to get the jab between a rock and a hard place.

There are three major deadlines looming for WA workers in the next few months, with the workforce broken into three categories:

  • Group 1, to be fully-vaccinated by 31 December 2021. This includes employees in industries with high transmission risk, vulnerability or those critical to community safety.
  • Group 2, to be fully-vaccinated by 31 January 2022. This includes businesses that deliver critical services like food, petrol, transport and education.
  • Group 3, in the event of a lockdown, must be fully-vaccinated to attend work.

The first two groups make up around 60% of WA’s workforce.

In the event of a lockdown, the vaccine mandate will capture another 15% of employees who won’t be able to go to work unless they have had both jabs.

Business owners and employers say it is getting tough to find employees, and they will likely have to reduce trading hours due to being understaffed. While they wanted their staff to be vaccinated, the issue was complex, and the impact of the vaccine mandate on small businesses could have been better understood.

Folks who choose to quit rather than get vaccinated explain that their reasoning is fear driven by possible side effects such as developing myocarditis and pericarditis — inflammation of the heart muscle and the surrounding tissue — after receiving a vaccine.

The Australian health department says these reactions are very rare but have occurred in some people after receiving mRNA vaccines such as Pfizer and Moderna.

“A small increased risk of pericarditis and/or myocarditis has been observed in people who have received an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine … compared to unvaccinated people,” the department says. “This is particularly seen in males under 30 years old after the second dose of mRNA vaccine.”

But the department notes COVID-19 itself is associated with a substantially higher risk of myocarditis and other cardiac complications compared to the COVID vaccines, and it urges people to weigh these health risks against possible side effects.

So far in Australia, 978,000 doses of Moderna and about 23.4 million doses of Pfizer have been administered.

Of the Pfizer doses, the Therapeutic Goods Administration received 315 reports of incidents likely to be myocarditis.

Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA (CCIWA) chief economist Aaron Morey says there are estimates up to 5% of workers will quit or be fired because of the mandate.

According to a recent survey conducted by the Chamber, around 70% of businesses are worried their staff will refuse to get the jab and will need to be stood down.

There was around 15% of businesses who did not believe they would meet the government’s timeline for having their staff vaccinated in time.

The Shop Distributive and Allied employees union covers about 200,000 workers in retail, fast food and distribution in WA. Secretary Peter O’Keefe said they had sought legal advice but there was little room to move.

He said while the majority of his members were happy to comply, there were a significant minority committed to their position.

“I think a number of them may have been fence-sitters, initially, but the instruction from the government, that’s been what’s turned them against (getting the vaccine),” he said.

Mr O’Keefe is asking employers for more time to try to talk his members around.

“The reality is if they want to keep working, if they want to travel overseas, if they want to do a whole bunch of things, they’re going to have to be vaccinated,” he said.

“A couple of members have said to us ‘Look, I’ll just take leave until this thing passes’ and we’ve said to them ‘Well, when do you think it’s going to pass?’

Because it’s been our view that COVID-19 will be around for a while.”

He said going forward, employers and employees are also grappling with the right of vaccinated workers to refuse to work with people who are not vaccinated.

 

Original content from ABC News. Note: Content has been edited for style and length.

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