The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) has slammed the Department of Public Service and Administration over a potential mandatory Covid-19 vaccination policy implementation.
This is after the department confirmed through a circular on Wednesday that it is considering to make vaccinations mandatory for all workers in the public service.
“Proposals are under consideration to increase the voluntary uptake of vaccines by public servants through advocacy by communicating the benefits of vaccination.
“Discussions are ongoing with stakeholders and organised labour to consider the introduction of a mandatory vaccine mandate,” the department said in a statement.
Reacting to the news, Nehawu said although it has called on government to procure more vaccines and ramp up the rollout of the vaccination programme, it is utterly shocked over mandatory vaccinations.
“It is very unfortunate that [the department] saw it necessary to mislead employees against the commitment of President [Cyril] Ramaphosa who on record had assured the country that no one shall be forced to take the vaccine.
“The lies spread around by [the department] that parties are discussing the compulsory vaccination in the public service shall not be accepted or tolerated by the national union,” Nehawu said in a statement.
The union said supports the government efforts to have all employees vaccinated, however, not at the “expense of their constitutional right”.
“Whilst we support the vaccination programme, our view is that it should not be forced down the throats of public servants.
“Workers have rights and must be consulted on any matter that concern their conditions of service and it cannot be correct for the employer to unilaterally change these conditions.”
It further said that it won’t allow the department to subject workers to such a treatment of forcing them to vaccinate.
“We want to send a strong warning to the department that we won’t stand idle whilst they abuse workers by taking their Constitutional right away from them.
“[We] call on the [the department] to immediately withdraw the circular and ensure no worker is forced to take a vaccine. All South Africans have a choice to either vaccinate or not based on their individual reasons, be it medical or constitutionally.”
In late August, Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla revealed that government was discussing with various role-players the compulsory vaccination of adults against Covid-19 in South Africa.
The minister said this would likely be aimed at workplaces, restaurants, cinemas and gyms. But no decision had been taken on mandatory vaccinations.
Meanwhile, Bhekisisa editor-in-chief Mia Malan previously indicated that the majority of South Africa’s population would need to be vaccinated first before mandatory vaccinations was implemented by government.
“It’s important to note that in South Africa we can’t [force vaccinations] yet. That’s why Discovery and Sanlam say [their mandatory vaccination policy] will be implemented in January because if you haven’t given everyone a reasonable chance to be vaccinated you can’t start with rule like that.
“You need to make sure that the rule you implemented is within the context of access… a fair one,” she said.
To date, just over 22 million vaccines have now been administered in the country.