Unions have welcomed the Victorian government’s decision to extend vaccine mandates to more than 1 million workers.
The Prime Minister, Daniel Andrews, announced on Friday that all Victorian residents of the state list of authorized employees must have a first dose of Covid vaccine by October 15 to continue working on site.
The comprehensive list includes professional athletes, faith leaders, and workers in the frontline services, hospitality, media, and government. As a rule, authorized workers must be fully vaccinated by November 26.
The new deadlines will not apply to Victorian workers in the aged care, health care, freight, construction and education sectors with existing mandatory vaccination schedules.
Guardian Australia understands that key unions were not aware of the expanded mandate before the announcement was made on Friday.
Tim Kennedy, the national secretary of the United Workers Union, said the mandate was a matter of “protecting people from Covid-19 and ending lockdowns as soon as possible to protect people’s mental health and well-being”.
“Public health mandated vaccinations require workers to be vaccinated to protect themselves, their communities and those entrusted to their care,” he said.
“Everyone who can get a vaccine should get a vaccine. It is a collective answer to a collective problem. This is how we show solidarity in this crisis.”
In a statement Friday night, the Victorian Trades Hall Council said employers must provide paid vaccination leave so that “every employee has the opportunity to be vaccinated” before the mid-October deadline.
“Employers should also provide extra paid time off work for the small minority of workers who may be experiencing side effects from the vaccine,” it said. “There should be safety nets for any worker who struggles to access a vaccine on time and there should be job protections for all workers who have real medical reasons for not getting vaccinated.”
Mandatory vaccinations have been opposed by some, including veteran Liberal MP Russell Broadbent, who South Gippsland Sentinel Times he was not vaccinated. Under Victorian rules, Broadbent would not be able to attend his electoral or ministerial offices after October 15.
However, the president of the Victorian Farmers Federation Emma Germano told the ABC on Friday, the consultation around the decision was “ridiculous”.
“I think the entire population is tired of making on-the-fly announcements without any detail or consultation with stakeholders that matter,” she said.
“It’s not my job as a farm owner, or at the VFF, to tell people what the right choice is for their health.”
Anti-lockdown and anti-vaccination protesters clashed with police in central Melbourne on Saturday, on a day Victoria captured 1,488 new local Covid infections – the highest daily number of cases since the start of the pandemic.
The Communication Workers Union, which represents Australian postal and telecommunications workers, has previously refused to support mandatory vaccinations.
Other unions had expressed support for vaccination ahead of the Victorian government’s announcement. In a statement on Thursday, the National Tertiary Education Union said it believed “vaccination requirements should be determined by public health regulations, not individual employers.”
“While exceptions should be made for those who cannot be vaccinated for health reasons or other legally recognized exemptions, the NTEU believes that all people who set foot on a [university] campus must be vaccinated.”
The position of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, whose members are journalists and athletes, is that “workers in our industries should be vaccinated where it is reasonable and safe to do so”.
“MEAA believes that the collective wellbeing and vibrant future of our industries are best served by vaccination and the expert guidance of the Australian medical community.”