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Labour groupings warn against firing workers for refusing Covid-19 shot

Mawande AmaShabalala Political journalist
Cosatu, Fedusa and Nactu say sacking employees who refuse to get vaccinated is an unsustainable easy way out. File photo
Cosatu, Fedusa and Nactu say sacking employees who refuse to get vaccinated is an unsustainable easy way out. File photo
Image: 123RF/belchonock

Three big labour organisations have cautioned employers against taking a hard line with employees who refuse to take the Covid-19 jab.

This after an employee at Goldrush Group who was fired after she failed to comply with the company's mandatory vaccination policy lost her bid to have the decision overturned by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).

The CCMA dismissed the employee’s case in which she argued that she refused to take the shot because of her constitutional right to bodily integrity.

Cosatu, Fedusa and Nactu say this approach will worsen already high unemployment in the country.

Employers, the trio said in a joint statement, should rather educate and persuade workers who are reluctant to vaccinate.

“Organised labour believes that dismissal of any worker must be avoided at all costs. Workers have families that they are responsible for. We have an unemployment rate of 46% that is rising daily. Sending any worker into the unemployment queue is to condemn their families to poverty,” the statement read.

According to the federations, threatening workers with dismissal would not achieve anything but only make matters worse in what is a muddied divide between those who have taken the shot and those who refuse.

Furthermore, the statement said, workers should not be easy targets for mandatory vaccination when they constitute only about a quarter of the population.

“If we are to achieve the 70% vaccination levels, then this must be a society-wide approach and not one that is simply dumped upon workers. 

“This has the unnecessary effect of raising workplace tensions and thus undermining labour market stability.”

The unions urged employers to instead follow the ministerial directive on workplace vaccinations which, among other things, “requires employers to undertake a needs-based assessment of their workplaces and to engage with workers and unions on their vaccination policies”.

The directive also provides room for employers to allow employees to work from home or from alternative sites for those hesitant to vaccinate for “medical, religious, or constitutional reasons”.

The unions said they defend employees who are threatened with disciplinary action or are fired for refusing to vaccinate.

The worker who had her case dismissed by the CCMA, they said, must exercise her right to review the ruling at the labour court.

“SA is a constitutional democracy.  This requires dialogue to resolve complex and sensitive matters. Dismissing workers who have fears will only serve to polarise a very toxic debate and, in fact, feed into the hands of the anti-vaxxers.”


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