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Busa considering court action to make Covid-19 vaccines mandatory for all South African workers

Paul Ash Senior reporter
Italy will require a Covid health pass from all workers. File photo.
Italy will require a Covid health pass from all workers. File photo.
Image: Sebabatso Mosamo

Business lobby group Business Unity SA is considering court action in an effort to get Covid-19 vaccinations made mandatory for SA workers.

Busa CEO Cas Coovadia told TimesLIVE that a number of businesses had already acted on this as the country continues to get back to work, adding that a clear pronouncement on the validity and constitutionality of mandatory vaccinations would create certainty.

“The OHS [Occupational Health and Safety] regulations enable businesses to institute mandatory vaccination requirements in certain circumstances,” Coovadia said. “We think mandatory vaccination is critical to ensure as many of our people as possible are vaccinated, so that we can overcome the virus and get back to a semblance of a ‘new normal’,” he said.

A vaccination mandate should pose no risk if employers and employees agreed that it is vital from both a human and economic viewpoint to get as many people vaccinated as soon as possible, he said.

If this was not the broad view, however, he noted there could be a risk of possible labour action — “which will be managed through the usual labour relations processes”.

Busa urged unions to consider the implications of people not getting vaccinated.

“We see no danger to workers if mandatory vaccination is introduced because this protects workers and puts us on the road to some form of economic recovery.”

Joseph Mathunjwa, president of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), previously told TimesLIVE that the union was opposed to vaccine mandates, saying they were “premature, unconstitutional and unjustifiable”.

The Democratised Transport Logistics and Allied Workers Union (Detawu) also opposed mandates, general secretary Vusi Ntshangase previously said.

“We have encouraged all of our members to get the jab because this is the right thing to do,” he said.  “But we are angry at the double standards. At the beginning, the president [Cyril Ramaphosa] said the vaccine would not be mandatory.”

Meanwhile, as SA’s vaccination programme remained behind target, businesses were already taking direct action by implementing compulsory vaccination for employees.

Busa was also working with the government on other approaches to stimulate demand, including the Vooma weekends, opening up for 12 to 18 year-olds and mobile vaccination sites.

While some economists and scientists have urged government and business to implement some form of incentive scheme for people to get vaccinated, Busa was not in favour of blanket incentivisation.

Business for SA health working group chairperson Stavros Nicolaou said the organisation was “entirely aligned” with Busa’s position.

“There’s been too much focus on individuals’ rights,” he said. “What about other people's rights?”

SA needed to shift the debate, he said, adding that the debate was similar to that around banning smoking in public places.

“I don’t want to get Covid-19,” he said. “And there is overwhelming evidence that risk of transmission is significantly lower among vaccinated people.”

One of the mechanisms with getting the vaccination drive back up to speed would be some form of mandatory requirement, he said.

“You want to go to a restaurant, you'll have to show a vaccination certificate just like the French have done. Do you want to go to a game? You'll have to present a vaccination certificate to get in.”

Mobile clinics would also be critical.

“They have been shown to be effective,” he said.


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