Your USU/ASU representatives met with Qantas to discuss the proposed COVID-19 vaccination policy on Tuesday. Our view has always been that public health experts should categorise what groups of workers must be vaccinated to perform their jobs, not individual employers.
However, this does not necessarily make it illegal for Qantas to issue a direction to staff that they need to be vaccinated against COVID-19. There is a lot more information we need to obtain from Qantas to provide advice to members.
We dealt with the following issues in the consultation:
1. What controls has Qantas has considered to protect against transmission of COVID-19, and why Qantas says vaccination is a necessary measure in the workplace
Health and safety is core union business. Importantly, Qantas has agreed to provide us with a copy of its COVIDSafe Plan, including the workgroup risk assessment. This information will help us work through your risk profile, and what controls (including vaccinations) may be in place. In addition, Qantas has agreed to another meeting before the policy is implemented to discuss the risk assessments. We will provide more advice to members when we have more information.
2. Summary of Public Health Orders already in place
Qantas has agreed to provide us with a summary of the public health orders that applies to its workforce. This information is critical for us when we advise you on your vaccination obligations.
3. The timeframe for implementation
We raised concerns around the short time frame for implementation and ongoing supply and access issues, as well as the necessary timeframes between vaccinations. Qantas management said that they would consider all of these circumstances. Qantas has agreed to consider amending its policy to reflect circumstances where employees take reasonable steps to comply with the direction, and make it clear that if employees were unable to comply due to logistical reasons then they would not be in breach of its policy.
4. The exemption process
Due to a number of circumstances, not all of our members can comply with Qantas’ directive. Qantas has agreed to consult the USU/ASU on the process for exemptions to be considered in the coming weeks. It will allow us to ensure principles such as procedural fairness are included.
5. Employee Privacy
Your delegates raised concerns over vaccination information being visible on Workday and who can access it. Qantas will provide a written response on who can access COVID-19 vaccination status on Workday and how the information is secured. For employees with medical exemptions, the information is kept with Qantas Medical, not Workday.
Pass this bulletin to your colleagues who aren’t in the union. They can join at www.usu.org.au/join.