BHP should leave the health decisions to workers

8 October 2021

The ETU/CEPU is critical of BHP’s announcement that it will require all workers and guests on BHP sites to be vaccinated, with no prior consultation with workers or unions.

The ETU’s position on the COVID-19 vaccination is clear: consistent with the advice of the Chief Medical Officer we recommend all members to get vaccinated subject to the advice of their doctor. However, the ETU is unequivocally opposed to employer-mandated vaccinations. Employers should not be putting themselves in the position of making health care decisions for their workers.

BHP has made this decision with no consultation. The mandate appears to be a blanket one, with apparently no consideration for the needs of different sites or workplaces. The details of the mandate, and whether exemptions are available, remain wholly opaque. It is unknown what, if any, regard has been given to the agreements already in place between not only BHP and its workforce, but also between subcontractors and their employees.

The ETU is gravely concerned with this decision, not only because of the trampling of an opportunity for genuine cooperation between BHP and the broader industry, but also due to the risk of it worsening the concerns of people already on the fence.

“What should have been an opportunity to facilitate genuine debate and the dissemination of quality health advice has instead been turned into a potential trigger for further anti-science protests and agitation,” said ETU National Assistant Secretary, Michael Wright.

The ETU, and other mining unions, have called on BHP to suspend this decision until such time as it has genuinely consulted with its workforce. Further, the Union is considering its options with respect to potential legal action regarding this lack of consultation and other aspects of workplace and privacy law.

We take this opportunity to again encourage our members to get vaccinated, subject to their own medical advice, but we also put employers on notice that they should not be putting themselves in the place of public health officials. Medical decisions should not be made by bosses.

This article was publised on 8 October 2021.