No vax pass mandate for council staff irks

    The Invercargill City Council building on Esk St, Invercargill. Photo: File

    WHILE the public require vaccination passes to access most of the Invercargill City Council’s (ICC) facilities, the mandate does not stretch to its staff – and a group of councillors is not happy with that.

    Councillors last week voted to introduce a policy whereby members of the public entering some council premises, including the council chambers, Splash Palace and the public library, will be required to show Covid-19 vaccination passes.

    Chief executive Clare Hadley said in a statement the policy was based on guidance on workplace health and safety provided by WorkSafe New Zealand.

    Staff were not members of the public and were present in order to carry out the requirements of their role, she said.

    “Workers on site are not included in the council requirement for vaccine certificates and are subject instead to the workplace health and safety assessment completed for their roles.

    “Councillors, however, are not employees and will be required to show a vaccine certificate prior to entry to the chamber.”

    Each role, irrespective of location, had been assessed for risk.

    “This includes public-facing staff and takes into consideration available PPE and other methods of risk mitigation such as social distancing and protective screens.

    “Staff working at those facilities will be required to comply with the requirements of the Covid-19 protection framework and the ICC workplace health and safety requirements for workers.”

    When questioned about the staff policy on Tuesday, Cr Peter Kett said he was unhappy with the decision.

    At a meeting last week, he asked his fellow councillors to disclose their vaccination status because he was concerned about the impact Covid-19 could have.

    He believed the decision about staff could be seen as a “double standard”.

    “I’m unhappy with that because I believe all staff should be double vaccinated if they are having contact with the public.

    “Anyone in that council chamber, whether they be councillor, staff, media or members of the public, needs to be double vaccinated.

    “It is not a sensible move.”

    Cr Nigel Skelt agreed – while he appreciated the challenges around employment law, he believed the council should set an example, he said.

    “The decision we made last week showed real leadership and I think that should be extended for staff.”

    Cr Ian Pottinger, who was the only councillor who voted against mandatory vaccination passes at council facilities, said it was a complicated matter.

    However, he was confident Mrs Hadley and her team had taken a very careful and thoughtful approach before making any decision.

    “This is her domain. Whatever she decides, I support.”

    At a performance, partnership and policy committee meeting early this week, resident Anne Gorman asked the council to review its decision to make vaccination passes mandatory at some of its facilities.

    She was fully vaccinated, but she wanted the council to have a better look at a long-term plan or other ways so non-vaccinated members of the community could access important public facilities, she said.

    Mrs Gorman suggested some council facilities such as the pool and the library be open some days of the week to all members of the public.