Local News

COVID vaccination mandate met with concerns from NT groups

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The COVID-19 vaccination mandate for workers in the Territory has been met with mixed views and unanswered questions.

Anyone who interacts with the public while at work needs to have their first jab by November 13 and be fully vaccinated by Christmas.

It means the likes of teachers, hairdressers and hospitality staff have to get immunised or risk losing their job.

NT Education Union’s Jarvis Ryan says while the majority of teachers said they would get vaccinated in a recent survey, others were opposed.

“There is a significant minority of people who are either not supportive of the vaccination or not supportive of the mandatory element,” he says.

“About 17 per cent, saying they weren’t vaccinated and didn’t intend to be.”

Staff layoffs

Mr Ryan is also concerned about the timeframe of the mandate and fears it could create other issues.

“In some of the larger remote schools, we’ve got only a handful, maybe less than a quarter of those Indigenous staff who are vaccinated.”

“[There’s] a situation where in a month’s time principals…will have to be the one giving them the bad news, saying if you’ve not complied, you’re no longer able to work here.”

“Is that really going to improve the situation in those communities by laying people off, is it going to improve the situation in terms of trust between government and communities.

While teachers can be recruited from interstate, Mr Ryan says their assistants will be hard to replace.

“People who speak the local language and are being trained up as assistant teachers, people working in those support roles, you can only replace those people generally from within those communities.”

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Hospitality concerns

Meanwhile, the hospitality sector is concerned the vaccination mandate could force some workers to move interstate.

Hospitality NT’s Alex Bruce says that would be another blow for the industry which is already grappling with staff shortages.

“We would hate to be in a predicament where we do have ultimately a system up here that isn’t shared across the country because then the real risk for us is that we do lose people interstate.”

He says a national vaccination mandate would have ensured consistency.

Despite some pushback in the sector about the changes Mr Bruce says operators will do whatever is necessary to stay in business.

“We do need to accept to learn to live with COVID and if that requires a level of mandatory vaccination in ours and other industries, fair cop, we’ll make it work.”