ALL TRADE UNIONISTS are familiar with the slogan: “An injury to one is an injury to all.” It encapsulates the principle of solidarity and signals the determination of the collective not to be picked-off one-by-one. Employers who are not brought up sharply by their employees’ union for harming one of its members, will very soon feel emboldened to harm them all. Much more challenging, from the union’s point-of-view is how to guard against the behaviour of a single worker imperiling the health and safety of their co-workers. How to prevent the injury of all by one.
It might be expected that, with the Delta Variant of the Covid-19 virus rampaging through Auckland, and mass vaccination being presented as the most important escape-route from the pandemic, the institutions dedicated to the protection of workers’ health and safety would be leading the charge against those who refuse to acknowledge the obligations of social solidarity. Why then, are the trade unions not at the forefront of a “No Jab, No Job!” movement? In the midst of a pandemic, a refusal to be vaccinated (without medical justification) is surely the crowning example of individual indifference to the welfare of the whole. Is it not the duty of the trade unions to take a resolute stand against such anti-social selfishness?
In the context of a Labour Government with an absolute parliamentary majority, is it not, similarly, the duty of the Minister of Workplace Relations and Safety, Michael Wood, to do all within his power to ensure that the obligations of solidarity are backed-up by the full force of the law? If, upon inquiry, that same Minister discovered that employers presenting their employees with the “No Jab, No Job!” alternative would almost certainly be acting unlawfully, then, surely, his next step would be to arrange for the law to be changed? After all, this is exactly what was done to ensure that “border workers” were all fully vaccinated. If “No Jab, No Job!” was good enough for customs officers and stevedores, then why not for every other group of New Zealand workers?
Wood was unable to provide a clear answer to questions such as these when he appeared (by Zoom) before the relevant parliamentary select committee. A superb chance to cast himself in the role of a hard-nosed, no-nonsense, champion of the working-class was squandered. Instead Wood chose to present himself as the inconsistent and mealy-mouthed champion of, well, God knows what.
The employers of workers already on the payroll, he informed the committee, could not say “No Jab, No Job!”, but, it would be perfectly okay for them to demand it of their next job applicant as a condition of employment. What a principled stand! Almost as principled as dodging the questions relating to the employers’ legal obligation to provide a safe and healthy work environment for their employees. Isn’t New Zealand lucky to have a Minister of Workplace Relations and Safety who is willing to place the rights of anti-vaxxers ahead of the rights of everyone else in the workplace – and the country?
Wood’s failure is emblematic of the more general failure of the entire New Zealand Left. To prevent certain classes of citizens from feeling hurt or offended by the free speech of their fellow citizens, leftists are all in favour of breaching the Bill of Rights Act and jailing “hate speakers” for three years. Those same “leftists” would not, however, dream of overruling the Bill of Rights Act’s prohibition against forcing medical procedures upon citizens – even at the cost of undermining the nation’s collective effort to defeat the Covid-19 Pandemic.
A trade union movement dominated by the working-class wouldn’t have a bar of this sort of “leftism”. The idea that some ignorant believer in conspiracy theories peddled by right-wing nutters on the Internet should be allowed to refuse vaccination – putting countless other Kiwis at risk – would strike them as complete bullshit. A working-class-led trade union movement would have been in the ear of Michael Wood for weeks, urging him to institute a “No Jab, No Job!” policy ASAP.
Sadly, however, New Zealand’s trade union movement isn’t led by the working-class (of which fewer than 10 percent now belong to a trade union) but by a council dominated by middle-class public servants of every description. A surprising number of these regard the right to refuse having their bodies polluted by injections of unwanted fluids as sacred, and not to be overruled for any reason – not even to preserve the health, safety, livelihoods, and lives, of their fellow citizens.
The idea that there are circumstances (fortunately rare) in which the safety of all might require the injury (but only to the pocket) of one, would strike them as barbaric. Unless, of course, the “one” was engaging in Hate Speech!
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Friday, 27 August 2021.
Unfortunately the religious fervor about getting the jab will solve the Covid problem in NZ is a false premise.
As long as "those in charge" keep focusing on case numbers the problem will remain
Iceland with 77% of population fully vaccinated-we can assume much higher % of those over 12.
Just peaked at 120+ cases a day (no deaths)
Singapore 77% of population vaxed(see above) 116 cases a day buggar all deaths
Malta 81% of Population vaxed, we can assume near 100% of adults. 41 cases a day
Phnom Penh Capital City of Cambodia over 90% adults vaxed, compulsory mask mandate, have had curfews, lockdowns after a brief respite they have just closed gyms, museums etc etc etc. and still getting cases.
So Chris. The jab is a help, but not the solution to NZs woes.
Only political will we drag us out of the crisis. That political will has to concentrate on something other than cases.
Yes, I understand the jab helps alleviate effects
But then again emerging results of medicines also have promising results.
The much maligned HCQ (because Trump recommended it) has been shown with CORRECT doses to have been successful. The trials (RECOVERY and WHO SOLIDARITY) have been totally discredited as for some reason the patients were given horrendous doses up to 5 times the recommendation.
I am not suggesting HCQ is NZs solution or alternate to jabs.
Am just saying that medical science is galloping along in addressing the Covid problem
Has any journo asked the DG of Health what treatment the positive cases are being given?
or is it drink plenty of water and rest??
Yes, I think it would have been different a few decades back. To some extent.The former militant stopwork meeting culture did used to be an important part of the previous union scene but it wasn't all or even most of the so called movement. A lot of areas used to be stagnant. State enforced compulsory unionism helped breed complacency and a false notion of actual class relations. One of the reasons unions are now in their present unsatisfactory condition.
I'm not sure about anti vaxxers being right wingers? Those I have met seem to be politically all over the place but lean towards green or NZ First. Conspiracy theorists really are a cross section of society who do seem a bit mad but mostly harmless Individuals.
"A trade union movement dominated by the working-class wouldn’t have a bar of all this anti-vax nonsense"
The NZ unions are not alone.... Biden hits resistance from unions on vaccine requirement:
Larry Cosme, president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, said requiring vaccinations “is not the American way and is a clear civil rights violation no matter how proponents may seek to justify it.”
I do have to laugh a little at the particular representative. Given the right law changes I'm sure his police officers will gleefully pepper spray, beat and handcuff to the ground anybody "resisting".
BTW, this ...with the Delta Variant of the Covid-19 virus rampaging through Auckland... is more hysterical rubbish. In terms of cases we're seeing increases every day. Have you kept an eye on the numbers for actual symptomatic illness, severe illness, hospitalisations (esp in the ICU area) and deaths? No, because they're not "rampaging" at all, which is not a surprise since we've known for at least two months that while the Delta was heading our way and was likely more infectious, it's not as lethal as the original Alpha variant.
Besides that, it's probably going to take new vaccines, gen 2 or 3, to deal with this mutating virus. Israel, with some 80% of the population vaccinated, also has Delta "rampaging". Again, this should not be a surprise: the reason we never developed vaccines for the Common Cold was because the Rhinoviruses and Coronaviruses that cause it mutate too fast.
I think Michael Wood is being cautious in his statement. Under the health and Safety in Employment Act a person's behaviour can be a hazard. The PCBU (employer) is responsible for managing hazards. An unvaccinated employee can be seen as a potential hazard. The level of the hazard will increase in relation to the job and the extent of the interaction.
A family member taking a complaint against a rest home after the death of a resident is an example where an employer would be asked if they took all reasonable steps to reduce of manage the potential hazard of Covid19 spread. Allowing non-vaccinated staff close interaction with those health vulnerability may not be seen as reasonable. The question then is whether the unvaccinated person can conduct the work, or whether the non-vaccinated status becomes frustration of contract.
The example can be carried down to schools, and almost all workplaces where worker interaction and interaction with those that come into the defined workplace.
The employer responsibility should worry the employers into ensuring a safe workplace.
"conspiracy theories peddled by right-wing nutters"
I don't know where that came from.
With one exception the conspiracy nutters I know are not right-wingers. There is a commonality though. They also tend to be convinced that "they" are out to get you in other ways: chem trails, big pharma, Jews controlling the world, bi ag poisoning the food, fluorine poisoning the water, astrology and so on. Connect the dots, the truth is out there.
Unsurprisingly the Greens are pretty quiet on the vaccination issue; their core constituency of fanatical fruit-loops are fully on board with suspicions (or outright hatred) of Big Pharma. It gets worse; a couple of greeny friends lamented the low covid mortality rate, their hoped for reckoning, the wrath of Gaia on sinful humanity regrettably delayed until the inevitable apocalypses. They only pretended to be joking.
No Chris, if you want to find real nutters you'll need to look further afield than your typical Kiwi right winger.
Tom, I have seen graphs that show the emergence of mutated strains of Covid exploding after the first vaccines. It is exactly what immunologists expected to happen. And now the figures from heavily vaccinated countries showing Delta running rampant.
Which raises the question, to vax or not to vax? I dont have an answer but what I can say is neither do our health and political leaders. I can state that because not one of them has raised questions about these known issues and emerging evidence. They have set a course and are sticking to it. I for one have lost confidence.
One other factor is the official assumption that the vaccines are safe with no longer term effects. Are they? These things normally go through 5 plus years of clinical trials, these havent. We are expected to have faith. I hope they are right, should they not be and the vacced get cancers, autoimmune syndromes, infertility, cardio issues etc who will carry the can? I haven't heard any official disclaimers.
Im seeing a worrying inflexibility and a lack of plan B. And I dont need right wing nut jobs and papers or conspiracy theorists to point this out.
Barron, Id like to see refusal to be vacced tested in court as a behavoir causing hazard. The ruling might be instructive to the extent employers or the state can coerce the individual for the public good.
That leaves the practical question of staffing adequately in a manner that is not hazardous. If a person is coerced at work to do something beyond what their conscience and Employment Contract requires they might have grounds to claim constructive dismissal.
Then what might happen if multiple staff refusing vaccination vote with their feet. To a resthome this might be crippling.
This could get very messy.
C'mon Chris, you should know by now that slow Maori vaccination rates are entirely the fault of the racist Health system...surely people can't be expected to take responsibility & be accountable for their own decisions.
I return to the example of someone working on aged care. Refusing to be vaccinated creates a clear hazard. If the unvaccinated worker introduced Covid into the center then a family of a resident that died could take a private prosecution under Health and Safety in the Workplace, suggesting that the PCBU did not reasonably provide a safe Workplace (residents being 'other' under the Act.
If that is possible, then a co-worker? School pupil?
The PCBU must take all reasonable steps to eliminate or manage hazards in the defined work space. If border workers are seen as reasonable to have to be vaccinated (albeit through special legislation), it could be argued it is reasonable in other workplaces.
If it can built into new employees conditions (as the Minister suggests), then how does an employer argue that existing employees that are unvaccinated should not have behavior managed, or eliminated?
The very nature of lockdown is acknowledgment that behavior during Covid is a potential hazard that must be managed. The vaccine passport overseas limits those that go to pubs and concerts to those vaccinated. Do you think that the employees at those venues are not required by the employer to be vaccinated?
Thanks NickJ and The Barron for reasoned joined-up thinking here, without automatic references to some commenter's favourite prejudices.
Which is a fine mess legally. On one hand we have as Barron argues a clear case of responsibility by the employers of a resthome to protect residents from staff who are unvaccinated.
On the other hand we have an employee who declares rights over their own body. It is clear to me from years of experience with constructing employment contracts that you cannot as an employer add conditions without the employees consent. Therein lies the problem if they dont consent.
The fly in the ointment is actually who can demand that people get vaccinated. It would seem to me that the employer is caught asked to take responsibility for something that they have no power over.
How would a court see it? They most likely would find against one party with no penalty on the basis that actual responsibility lies elsewhere.
Where does it lie? I'd suggest it resides with government, and it requires legislation. That's the big rub, will this government make vaccination mandatory? Those on the side of compulsion would say yes, those opposed see it as a threat to life and liberty. To either party it is a declaration of war.
The AstraZeneca vaccine does come with a risk (albeit low) of fatal blood clots (as reported recently in the Guardian), and there have been a number of deaths. It is only fair that individuals have the right to choose whether to take that risk.
Here we go, concrete results from anti vax idiocy and – dare I say it – free speech idiocy. Pretty sure this isn't the only example. There will be more.
I am pro vaccine, but this seems like a pretty poor argument.
The union movement should empower the employing class to override the Bill of Rights regarding compulsory medical procedures? And that would prove it is very "working class"? Furthermore, considering the alliance you have joined in the defence of "Free Speech", Chris, I am not quite sure you have a leg to stand on regarding people defending "right wing nutters" - you're in a formal organisation with them!
Unions certainly have their problems and are terribly passive. Additionally the Left being in favour of this curtailment of free speech should be entirely rejected, "hate speech" or otherwise. Nonetheless I've no idea how one can argue for a defence of democratic rights out of one side of your mouth, and the rejection of them out the other. And what is the threat here? With hate speech it is imprisonment, with vaccines it is... permanent enforced unemployability? Surely BOTH of these should be considered a barbaric attack on working people.
concrete results from anti vax idiocy and – dare I say it – free speech idiocy.
Heh. Trust GS to ignore Chris's debate topic and deflect to the comfortable world of attacking a Republican state like Texas.
Just one problem with that:
you probably didn’t know Hawaii just hit an all time high for covid hospitalisations – because the MSM can’t blame a lack of masks, lack of vaccines, lack of lockdown harshness, President Trump, Trump voters, or Republicans in general for this data. Hawaii is as solidly Democrat Party as California or Illinois.
You can also check out the chart of Covid cases per 100k of the population for Hawaii vs. Texas. As the headline on the graph says:
This is why politicising Covid is ridiculous... Hawaii and Texas: opposite approaches and yet the same trajectory. Adjust your narratives accordingly
And now we return to the topic at hand: should unions enforce vaccinating their members, including using employer mandates?
Tom, if you bother to do proper research you would realise that Hawaii is not a good example. I'm not wasting any more time on you on this.
There is a study that has adjusted for “state population density, rurality, Census region, age, race, ethnicity, poverty, number of physicians, obesity, cardiovascular disease, asthma, smoking, and presidential voting in 2020.”
Go find it. Neither you nor red state governors come out of this particularly well.
1.Further to that, and this is my last word – as far as I can see, Texas is running at a rate of 1987 deaths per million population while Hawaii is running at a rate of 425.
2.Texas has 125434 cases per million, Hawaii 45171. I don't know where you're getting your information from, but there seems to be some conflict here. And if it's been politicised, it's been politicised by the right, particularly the religious Right who are encouraging people not to get vaccinated. The worst of which of course is DeSantis in Florida.
3.If Chris doesn't want me "deflecting", all he has to do is censor me.
4.Actually, if you weren't so bloody supercilious and determined to sneer at people you disagree with, the might be some point in continuing this conversation, but no you just can't resist it can you? So goodbye.
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