Fire Rescue Victoria (FRV) has decided to maintain its Covid-19 vaccine mandate, causing unvaccinated firefighters to be sidelined indefinitely from their duties.
The decision comes after specific clauses of the state government's vaccine mandate legislation expired on July 12, leading to FRV's implementation of a third vaccine requirement for all firefighters.
This decision has sparked debates about fairness, especially when many other work sectors have relaxed vaccination rules.
Fire Rescue Commissioner Gavin Freeman confirmed the mandate last week, stating that firefighters must have received a third vaccination to be eligible for work.
This decision affects firefighters who have not completed the vaccination requirement, even leading to some still on WorkCover due to vaccine-related injuries being unable to return to work.
"There is no change," Commissioner Freeman reaffirmed on July 11, indicating that the vaccination requirements were based on an Interim Measure Notice issued on October 12, 2022.
The Australian Firefighters Alliance's Andrew Hughes spoke on behalf of impacted members, arguing that the mandate violates human rights by limiting self-determination and access to employment income.
The Alliance cited breaches of legislation and regulations, as well as psychological and personal harms faced by affected firefighters.
The situation has left one fireman devastated, unable to return to work due to not meeting the vaccine requirements.
This has not only impacted him financially but also placed an increased burden on his vaccinated colleagues who are shouldering significant overtime in response to workplace shortages and recent flood disasters.
Despite vaccine mandates being lifted for the general public across Victoria, specific industries, including healthcare, continue to maintain vaccination policies to 'safeguard vulnerable populations'.