Councils talk about plans for staff and vaccine

Environment Southland chief executive Rob Phillips. PHOTO: LAURA SMITH
Environment Southland chief executive Rob Phillips. PHOTO: LAURA SMITH
As debate continues on whether public-facing roles should require mandatory vaccination, Southland councils have provided insight on where they stand.

Last week, the Government announced high-risk workers in the health and disability sector had to be fully vaccinated by December, and school and early learning staff and support people who had contact with children and pupils to be fully vaccinated by January.

At an Environment Southland council meeting last week, Cr Lloyd McCallum questioned whether there was a plan for how the council could deal with the Delta variant long-term, given the change it presented from previous lockdown experiences.

"Have we done any planning in regards to having Delta Covid-19 in the workplace, or in our workforce, and meeting our long-term-plan work plans?"

He asked what the council’s plans were for a fully vaccinated workforce, as well as looking after staff wellbeing and community stress levels.

Chief executive Rob Phillips said given the situation in the North Island, it was clear the regional council needed to look to the next step, including

encouraging staff to get vaccinated.

He spoke of how local and central government representatives were talking about what any mandate might involve, but said he was conscious decisions were required.

"I’m very comfortable our staff are prepared ... having a fully vaccinated community and staff is going to be key for us."

After the meeting, organisational development and transformation general manager Amy Kubrycht said the council supported the national vaccine rollout.

"We have been encouraging our staff to get vaccinated to help protect their friends and whanau, their colleagues and the communities that we serve.

"We are providing information to our staff about how to get vaccinated and also allowing paid time to have their first and second vaccinations."

Ms Kubrycht said the council was following government advice in its Covid response.

Environment southland did not believe any staff met the mandate for vaccination as required by legislation and, as such, vaccination, while strongly encouraged, was not compulsory.

"The Delta situation is an evolving one, as is the Government response and ours.

"We are keeping a close eye on it and will continue to follow government advice, adapting our response and engaging with staff as required."

Gore District Council chief executive Steve Parry said his council was also waiting on advice, particularly with staff who visited schools.

He said while there was no mandate for vaccination, that could not be ruled out in future.

"The key message is we’re adopting a watching brief."

Invercargill City Council chief executive Clare Hadley said staff were encouraged to get vaccinated, and were allowed time off to do so to help protect the team and community.

"We do also recognise that there are individual circumstances that may not make this possible for everyone.

"We will take the Government's lead on any mandatory vaccination requirements, if these apply to our staff or facilities, and we await guidance on this."

The Southland District Council had the same approach.

Chief executive Cameron McIntosh said none of its roles was covered by the recent vaccine mandate.

"At this time we have not asked our staff to provide their vaccination status as, in line with the Privacy Act, it is not information we require."

He said the council encouraged staff by providing time for them to get their vaccinations and giving support to access appropriate information about vaccination so they could make an informed decision.


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