11 Oct 2021

Pāmu ponders restrictions for unvaccinated staff

5:59 pm on 11 October 2021

The state owned farmer Pāmu has said it may need to look at putting in place some restrictions for unvaccinated staff in the future.

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Photo: 123rf

Pāmu, formerly Landcorp, owns or operates about 110 farms around New Zealand. It has 647 employees including farmers, growers, marketers, supply chain managers and business experts.

Company spokesperson Simon King told RNZ while it did not have a view on the mandating of vaccines, it was aware there could be future issues on all farms, including Pāmu's, with unvaccinated staff.

"In particular, the ability to operate farms if unvaccinated staff become infected and have to isolate, or if suppliers start to refuse to uplift product from farms with unvaccinated workers," King said.

King said the company may need to look at restrictions relating to unvaccinated workers, including travel, transfers and training to ensure the safety and well-being of all its employees. But at present, King said its efforts at present were going into encouraging all staff to get vaccinated.

Staff were being given time off to go to vaccination appointments without having to take leave, and as an added incentive, it was giving all staff who produce proof that they've had both jabs, an additional day's leave, he said.

"We are working to remove any barriers to our staff and their whānau getting vaccinated, as we recognise the importance of vaccination for the well-being of our staff, their families and colleagues and for New Zealand."

Other primary industry businesses 'strongly encourage' vaccination

The dairy co-operative Fonterra, which has about 11,000 employees in New Zealand, said it strongly encouraged vaccination, however it was not mandatory for staff.

The company said to help make accessing vaccination as easy as possible, it had been offering workplace vaccination clinics at it sites across the country, through which more than 7500 vaccinations had been administered.

"We have been keeping farmers updated on our workplace vaccination programme and efforts to continue to protect our people and operations through the pandemic," a Fonterra spokesperson said.

Kiwifruit exporter Zespri also said it strongly encouraged its staff to get vaccinated to protect themselves and their whānau.

RNZ asked the Ministry for Primary Industries if it had provided any advice to primary industry businesses about making the Covid-19 vaccination mandatory for essential workers involved in the food supply chain.

In response, a ministry spokesperson said its senior leadership team was holding regular meetings with industry leaders to provide updates and field questions on the Covid-19 response.

"The sector is focused on continuing to keep vital supply chains running while protecting New Zealanders from Covid-19. Vaccination is one area that has been discussed."

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