Greater Wellington councils consider compulsory vaccination for council staff
Kevin’s Stent / Stuff
Porirua mayor Anita Baker said she personally agreed with mandatory vaccinations for incoming council staff – but it was not a decision she could make on her own. (File photo)
Some mayors in Greater Wellington believe it should be mandatory for council staff to be vaccinated against Covid-19, although none say they have implemented it yet.
It comes as the debate over mandatory vaccinations is generating interest in local government offices across the country.
Porirua mayor Anita Baker said those taking on new council jobs should be vaccinated.
“For me, my personal opinion as mayor would be to make it mandatory for staff in the future.”
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Baker said she did not have the authority to implement such a mandate, all staffing decisions were in the hands of the CEO.
Porirua City Council chief executive Wendy Walker said the organization had received legal advice on mandatory vaccinations, but had made no decision on it.
“We’ll think about it, but for now we are encouraging staff to get vaccinated,” she said. “The government seems pretty keen on keeping it non-mandatory, but we also have health and safety obligations. “
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The boards had a range of public roles in libraries, swimming pools and recreation centers where there was regular contact with the public, which posed a risk, Walker said.
Porirua council conundrum is being confronted by councils across the country – Waikato District Council was “gathering information” on the matter after reviewing recent Employment Relations Authority case involving a Customs New Zealand employee .
In this case, the border protection officer refused the vaccine but was deemed at risk of exposure to the virus.
The employee refused the vaccine. Other roles were explored to reduce the risk, but no deal could be found and his customs job was terminated.
Upper Hutt Mayor Wayne Guppy has said he too would like to see mandatory double vaccination for council staff.
“For me personally, this should not be reserved for municipal staff, but for everyone. It is a matter of safety for both the client and our front line staff, it is a matter of safety for our co-workers.
Asked about the legal and personal choice arguments against mandatory vaccinations, Guppy said, “Yes, but it’s a virus that runs through our communities and doesn’t take prisoners.”
The council’s chief executive, Peter Kelly, said the organization did not require vaccinations for staff but “strongly encouraged” them to be overtaken.
Wellington City Council Mayor Andy Foster said the council wanted the government to clarify whether it could require its staff to be vaccinated.
More than 90 percent of council staff had been vaccinated, but the council wanted to reach 100 percent, he said.
Foster believed that vaccine passports could soon become a requirement in public facilities, such as libraries or swimming pools.
Hutt City Council CEO Jo Miller said, “We are in a race to get vaccinated and to make sure as many staff as possible can be vaccinated.”
Miller said she was closely following government guidelines for who to vaccinate – currently no staff were meeting the threshold for mandatory vaccinations, but it was a “party on the move.”
But the mayor of Kāpiti, K Gurunathan, said compulsory vaccination was a “dilemma” for counseling, with enormous legal risks.
“I don’t think we have the right to impose mandatory vaccinations, we can’t even require staff to tell us if they’ve been vaccinated.
The Kāpiti Coast District Council offices had around 340 employees, Gurunathan said, and he thought it would be useful to ask the question, without demanding an answer.
The council could only do their best to encourage the staff, and Tū Ora Compass Health soon administered vaccines at the Kāpiti council office.
E tū union organizer Mat Danaher recently said Thing the union did not support compulsory vaccination because people should have the right to “bodily autonomy”.
“But we think vaccination is a good thing. So we need to provide correct education and information to people, to address their concerns and reduce the number of hesitant workers. “