Telstra have confirmed that the company intends to proceed with implementing its mandatory vaccination policy.
Nevertheless, the consultation process with your Union has resulted in a shift of Telstra’s original position, in the case of timing, where the deadlines have been extended outside of NSW and Victoria, genuine medical exemptions and third-party access to Telstra facilities – to a degree.
The deadlines for vaccination under the policy is as follows:
|State/Territory||First dose date||Second dose date|
|NSW & VIC||15 October 2021||15 November 2021|
|All other Australian states and territories||29 October 2021||29 November 2021|
The Union believes that in some instances, enough time may not be provided for those who may still only be eligible for AstraZeneca vaccines and for those located in in regions where Pfizer and Moderna are not readily accessible. If you intend to be vaccinated but find yourself in this situation and a temporary exemption is not granted by Telstra, contact your State Branch Official for immediate assistance.
For those with temporary or permanent medical exemptions, we advise that you seek a medical contraindication from your treating medical professional as soon as possible.
Telstra’s language has softened around medical exemptions, when compared to the originally proposed policy. Members in this circumstance who receive a direction to be vaccinated should immediately advise that they are seeking a medical exemption, and should provide the medical contraindication in support for your application for exemption from having to comply with the direction.
Should that exemption not be granted, you should contact your State Branch Office for immediate assistance. We will vigorously defend any attempt by Telstra to medically retire any member with a genuine medical contraindication to being vaccinated.
The Union sought legal advice on the policy. That advice concluded that, generally, a direction by Telstra for employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 will be lawful and reasonable in the roles that Telstra has broadly described, where:
- You are required to work in high-risk locations with vulnerable persons or in locations that might lead to COVID-19 outbreaks if infected people come into contact with members of the public (e.g. medical facilities, aged care centres, schools, shopping centres, indigenous communities);
- You are required to attend work (i.e., you cannot work from home) and work in close proximity with other employees or customers;
- Government/health regulations stipulate that you must be vaccinated to enter a location or premises.
It concludes that, on the basis of the proposed policy, the most recent advice of the Fair Work Ombudsman and other decisions made by the Fair Work Commission on dismissals for similar reasons, failing to comply with a direction made under the policy would form a valid reason for dismissal.
The Union broadly opposes this policy on the basis that it does not align with the Federal Government’s public health position – that the vaccination is free of cost and is voluntary for each Australian. We believe if mandates are going to be introduced, they should be introduced by government health authorities based on a thorough public health risk analysis.
Based on the already high reported vaccination levels within the Telstra workforce and with the generous ongoing incentives offered, it is our view that the result of having the substantial majority of the workforce vaccinated would have been achieved with ease, and without a mandate.
There are people who are genuinely hesitant due to something they may have read on social media or other online forums and should be given an opportunity to have a genuine discussion with their own doctors about their personal circumstances to enable them to overcome that hesitancy.
We will continue to advocate for this.
However, in light of the legal opinion received at this time we must advise members that in instances where an individual’s role aligns with the broad description of the roles captured by the policy, they must comply.
Just as in other circumstances we may not like, or agree with, to advise otherwise would be providing irresponsible advice to members which could put your employment at risk.
Telstra must act on third-party interaction
Given Telstra maintains that this policy is first and foremost in the interests of protecting its workforce, one must ask why the mandate is not also being introduced to all third-parties interacting with the workforce?
We made our position quite clear during consultation, that should Telstra proceed with implementation, it should also implement a requirement for third-parties operating within the Telstra environment to be vaccinated.
For the same reasons Telstra justifies its implementation of this policy, it should also introduce requirements for third-parties entering Telstra owned or operated properties – including other telco representatives and customers, and should also not require an employee to attend a customer premises if the occupants of those premises are not vaccinated.
These are all environments in which our members work – and Telstra, therefore, has a responsibility to provide a safe working environment.
Telstra has so far confirmed it will require customers entering its retail stores to be vaccinated where relevant public health orders require this, but refused to require third-parties entering other Telstra premises, including employees and contractors of other telecommunications providers, from being vaccinated to enter those premises.
This is an area in which we are continuing to pursue.
Despite our opposition to the policy due to it being at odds with the Federal Government’s public health position, we remain steadfast in urging all members to nevertheless get vaccinated. If not for your own protection against severe illness and/or death, for the safety of your family and your community.
According to research published August 12 in the New England Journal of Medicine, two doses of the vaccines available in Australia still remain effective at preventing transmission of the Delta strain – 88% in the case of Pfizer, and 67% in the case of AstraZeneca – compared to 93.7% and 74.5%, respectively, in the case of the Alpha strain.
If you are at all hesitant for any reason, please speak to your doctor to discuss your personal circumstances. Your own trusted medical practitioner is the most appropriate source of advice for you on what is best for your health.
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