Flat White

Fair Work Australia won’t protect workers from unfair vaccination rules

16 August 2021

4:00 AM

16 August 2021

4:00 AM

None of us should be surprised that the union movement has sunk back into its favourite communist swamp. 

The abolition of employment choice and the suffocation of regulation have remained a feature of their behaviour, long after the cries of revolution settled with the ash of World War II. 

Despite never being elected, the unions linger beside Labor ministers in the halls of parliament like ghouls, manipulating policy with a glance ‘here’ and a party donation ‘there’. As a result, Australia finds itself drowning in outdated, anti-capitalist dogma. 

A few questionable politicians shouldn’t be a problem, but we have allowed spurned Marxists on an infinite public payroll to teach our kids their version of history. As a result, several generations stand huddled around the polling booths, ready to start a hot-and-heavy affair with history’s most violent political ideology. 

There is no point explaining to them that Socialism does not equal a free iPhone. These kids think holding down a job is ‘literal slavery’ and will do everything in their power to keep the nation locked up so they can watch Netflix and collect a Universal Basic Income – I mean – JobSeeker. By the time they realise that the only true slavery is dependency on the state, it’ll be too late for millions of family businesses. 

We have front row seats to the ‘tyranny of the majority’. It’s a bloody show of irrational, frightened people who are more than happy to oppress each other in return for government favour and the utopia of safety. The Constitution was designed to stop this kind of thing from happening, but our State and Federal politicians have been feeding its pages through the shredder on a daily basis. 

Which is amusing, because Fair Work Australia was set up to stop private employers from taking advantage of workers. If anything, it is has devolved into a weapon to benefit the unions at the expense of jobs in the private sector. I have had the displeasure of wading through the insufferable quagmire of regulation and hubris which has spent the last twelve years of its existence making employment a misery for businesses. 

Fair Work is advertised as an entity dedicated to the protection of the Australian workforce. Above all else, it is meant to stand on principle, independent of the government’s whims and overreaching corporations. 

Covid marked the first robust test of Fair Work’s nerve – and it was shaky at best. 

The federal government and state premiers have spent eighteen months rushing through medical mandates to strip civil and human rights from the population. Parts of the nation remain under near-permanent house arrest. Millions have lost their jobs, while hundreds of thousands of small and independent contractors have collapsed. 

Despite this, a range of big businesses deemed essential by the government (who just so happen to have unionised workforces or at least enterprise agreements), remain open. 

Fair Work helped the government dismantle the small business community in Australia. 

Throughout the pandemic, it was the business owners who were left with no revenue, bills piling up, and unreasonable requirements to keep staff on at full pay. Given this, let’s not pretend that Fair Work has any interest in protecting the little guys of our employment landscape. 

The real shock to Fair Work’s integrity came when mandatory vaccines were announced. Despite saying that the government would not coerce anyone into a vaccine, Scott Morrison has put pressure on state premiers to issue health orders that allow businesses to mandate them. 

National Cabinet released an official announcement to Fair Work indicating that it had discussed the issue of ‘employers seeking to mandate that employees be vaccinated against Covid’. In it, the prime minister outlined the ability for employers to mandate vaccination. Fair Work pointed out that states and territories can issue public health orders which require compliance, including vaccination. There has been next to no resistance from Fair Work since a selection of private companies began introducing mandatory vaccination. 

Mandatory vaccines have turned the right to work in Australia into a hostage negotiation. People will only be allowed to earn a living if they agree to medical demands made by the government. If the prime minister doesn’t consider ‘vaccinate or starve’ an act of coercion, I’d hate to see his definition. Considering that Covid vaccines do not prevent transmission, as evidenced by data coming in from around the world, there is no basis from which to mount a herd immunity argument. They are for personal protection only. 

Unfair dismissal is the lifeblood of Fair Work. 

Where are the pitchforks and flaming torches? Where are the press releases and enraged media interviews? Why aren’t representatives from Fair Work bombarding our TV screens every night, demanding protection for workers against government tyranny? 

You can hardly expect a union-friendly, communist-style ‘independent’ vassal of the government to protest laws that bring Australia closer to subjugated workforce. 

In April of 2021, the Fair Work Commission handed down a preview on compulsory vaccination. It upheld the decision to sack a staff member who had been with Goodstart Early Learning for fourteen years. Ms Barber, who provided evidence that she had previously had an allergic reaction to a flu vaccine, was told that her evidence only included a report to her doctor at the time rather than medical confirmation. 

Compliance with a flu vaccine had never been a requirement of her employment until Goodstart introduced a new policy in 2020 insisting all staff be vaccinated against Influenza. Fair Work ruled that the policy had been prepared in consultation with relevant unions, but that was little comfort to Ms Barber. The verdict read, “Ms Barber’s failure to comply with Goodstart’s lawful and reasonable direction to have the flu vaccine was a valid reason for the termination of her employment on the grounds of misconduct.”

While this is not a final decision on Covid vaccine mandates, the ruling expressly instructs others to use the result for guidance in the pending Covid discussion. 

SPC will be the true test of mandatory Covid vaccination in law. The large Australian company is the first non-health or travel business to introduce the policy for its 450 staff and visitors via its health and safety policy. Employees have six weeks to book their vaccination, if they have not already had it. As a food producer, SPC said that it was taking the extreme measure because it compared itself to an essential workforce. 

The case for SPC is not guaranteed to set an industry precedent, as it was made prior to a public health order. Only medical mandates issued by the state can override employee privacy laws. SPC’s hasty decision has created confusion, especially as the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union claims that it was not consulted. Unsurprisingly, the Union’s Assistant National Secretary Jason Hefford said that they weren’t ‘broadly opposed’ – it was more that they were miffed about not being asked. Workers are threatening to leave and associated industries have called on the Fair Work Ombudsman to urgently clarify the situation. 

This desired clarification began this week, with the unveiling of a ‘four-tiered system of work’ by Fair Work. 

These tiers propose to break the workforce down into degrees of risk, where tier 1 is for front line workers and border control, tier 2 for employees required to have close contact with vulnerable people, tier 3 for those who come into contact with customers (essentially retail and hospitality) and tier 4 – those who work from home. 

As part of these newly announced guidelines, Fair Work confirmed that it would be likely that some of these tiers could enforce mandatory vaccination on their staff – including for people who work in supermarkets and other retail outlets. 

The test for each tier appears to be based entirely on the ill-defined concept of ‘reasonableness’, which has about as much validity as the widely mocked and never defined concept of ‘essential’ for businesses during lockdown. 

Fair Work stressed that its guidance is not legally binding, but it does lay the framework for legally binding legislation to follow in short order.  

If Australia allows the government to ransom the right to work against medical procedures, this country is finished. We might as well take our employment legislation and worker protections and toss them in the sea where they can sink to the bottom as an environmental hazard, along with the billions of face masks cast aside by Generation Fear. 

One thing remains certain, the Fair Work watchdog isn’t going to bark at the government. 

Alexandra Marshall is an independent writer. If you would like to support her work, shout her a coffee over at Ko-Fi.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Show comments