Unions and employers might clash about vaccination


Despite Pres Cyril Ramaphosa’s public assurance that inoculation was not mandatory, SA’s trade union movement could soon find itself at loggerheads with employers over some workers refusing to be vaccinated against Covid.

With businesses expected to invoke the Occupational Health and Safety Act in instances of employees rejecting vaccination, the 1.8-m member-strong Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) has warned that no employer had a right to dismiss workers over non-vaccination. Cosatu made it clear that it would use the Labour Relations Act and the Constitution to defend workers. According to public health lawyer Safura Abdool Karim, companies had an obligation “to create a safe working space for their employees” in line with the Act and a directive issued by the Department of Employment and Labour. Karim said companies choosing to terminate employment of workers for not vaccinating do have a legal basis upon which to do so.

A recent survey by the universities of Stellenbosch and Cape Town on vaccine acceptance in SA found that there was an increase in the proportion of adults willing to get vaccinated from 71% in March to 76% in May. However, nearly one in four participants was still hesitant about getting inoculated.

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