17 Feb 2022

Businesses prepared to keep vaccine mandates, workers' union says

6:51 am on 17 February 2022

A union representing workers across a range of sectors says even if vaccine mandates ended many businesses would keep them going.

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A vaccine pass is scanned. Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

First Union estimates 70 percent of its retail members come under company-enforced mandates and fewer than two percent have left their jobs as a result.

It represents about 30,000 workers in retail, finance, transport and logistics.

First Union organiser Ben Peterson said many businesses, such as supermarkets, have opted into vaccine mandates to keep staff and customers safe.

"I don't think there's an appetite for changing those rules among our members or from the companies that have enforced them," he said.

"This is a response to health and safety risks and assessing those risks and it gives operational protection to our supply chain. Even if the government was to change their position on mandates I do not believe that those employers would want to change their position and those things would stand."

It has been over a week since protesters started occupying Parliament's lawn. Described as disparate groups protesting vaccine mandates, they have blocked roads and the behaviour of some has included harassment, intimidation and death threats.

The number of people out of work due to the vaccine rule is likely small, given there were 11 percent fewer people on the Jobseeker benefit in December compared to the end of 2020.

The Ministry of Social Development does not ask beneficiaries for their vaccination status.

Peterson said anecdotally, the numbers of people out of work due to being unvaccinated was low, as many had been redeployed into roles that did not require a vaccine pass.

"The situation that we're seeing is unemployment is very low so we're quite confident that there will be other opportunities for people. We aren't too concerned, it's relatively low numbers of people in a situation where there's a lot of jobs going."

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