As various Australian states push forward with their ‘roadmaps to freedom’, hundreds of critical workers have quit in protest against mandatory vaccination.
At least 130 workers in the NSW health industry have resigned along with an unknown amount of Queensland police officers. Both industries have come under mandatory vaccine orders issued by their respective state premiers and handed down through industry leaders.
Last Thursday, 1,200 were stood down on paid leave when they refused to begin the Covid vaccination program by the deadline. This paid leave will expire in two weeks, indicating that hundreds more may be left without a job.
The job losses place pressure on premiers who have been frantically trying to recruit additional healthcare workers with less experience to cover the gap as per recruitment drives detailed in Operation Covid Shield.
The New South Wales health department is exploring the option of using foreign nurses - 'fast-tracking' their overseas credentials.
"When they're importing employees to fill your positions from overseas when Australians can't get back to their own country, we've got a problem," said Graham Hood, a former Qantas pilot who famously spoke out against the airline industry's vaccine mandates.
Australia’s health union covers around 140,000 workers. A representative told 7 News that the expected job losses from Covid vaccine mandate objections were ‘negligible’.
The Queensland Police Service is reported to be combing through employee records to ensure all staff have complied with the mandatory vaccination directive. Those who have not are expected to face disciplinary action such as suspension without pay.
"The QPS is working through internal records as a priority to identify which members have not been vaccinated and do not have an approved exemption,” announced the Queensland Police Service in a statement, after the vaccination deadline expired on Monday.
"As a front-line service agency, we are more exposed to the risk of COVID-19 than most occupations and sadly we have seen police officers die as a result of the virus around the world, including 90 officers in the United Kingdom alone.”
Deputy Commissioner Steve Gollschewski said that if there were resignations against mandatory vaccinations, the numbers would be ‘low’. Across the state’s 15 districts, there are believed to be around 100 officers out of 15,000 planning to quit.
“We have had some people resign, and that number has changed on a daily basis, but the numbers are low. We expect, at the end of the day, there will be very few numbers who refuse – some people will – and we’re working through that at the moment,” said Deputy Commissioner Gollschewski.
Seven police officers, currently on stress leave, won a challenge in the Supreme Court against Commissioner Katarina Carroll over her directive to mandate Covid vaccinations. Their victory afforded them a 12-day delay to the mandated timeline, but they will have to seek further exemptions to keep their jobs.
The situation in Australia has drawn attention from around the world, with protesters in New York City marching in support of Australian workers and against mandatory vaccinations and vaccine passports.
Essential workers in Victoria are also challenging Premier Daniel Andrews’ vaccine mandate for over a million authorised workers by October 15.
The list of authorised workers is exceptionally broad, covering industries from healthcare, construction, teaching – all the way through to pet store staff, personal trainers, and film crews.
In response, Melbourne has seen protests nearly every day since construction workers were issued with a mandatory vaccination directive. Protests against the CFMEU’s failure to oppose the Victorian government’s health order have sparked a range of protests, including the #ReclaimTheLine silent vigils held last week by teaching staff.
Legal challenges have arisen in New South Wales, where Minister for Health Brad Hazzard has told the Supreme Court that the public health order for vaccination is ‘not really a vaccine mandate’.
“There is no requirement for vaccination. There is a condition on the exception [to NSW stay-at-home health directives] which people can take advantage of or not,” said Jeremy Kirk SG, Hazzard’s barrister.
Kirk added that Hazzard had ‘no duty to listen to the opinions of those who are anti-vaccination when there is a large body of evidence supporting the policy behind the public health orders’.
There are more mandatory vaccination deadlines set to expire across Australia in the coming weeks.