Government removes firefighters from Covid-19 vaccination mandate

As of 11.59pm on 7 July 2022 firefighters will no longer be covered by the Covid-19 mandatory vaccination Health Order.

This will mean that firefighters that have been prohibited from undertaking their duties due to their vaccination status will be able to return to work from midnight on 7 July 2022.   We will need to work through the appropriate process for each affected member to assist their return at the time appropriate to their personal circumstances.  The affected members should contact their union representative that has been supporting them since the mandates were announced to discuss that process.

Tomorrow the NZPFU will have a virtual meeting with the representatives who have been supporting and representing the unvaccinated members.  We will work through the issues and scenarios to ensure we are able to assist each affected member according to their personal circumstances. 

Regardless of vaccination status this news will be a huge relief for some but for others the changes may be daunting.

  • The re-integration may be challenging for those returning to work who have not been able to undertake their duties since November 2021.  They may have experienced many personal hardships and difficult events during that time and will need support to adjust.
  • Some vaccinated members may find it challenging to have unvaccinated staff returning to the workplace.  It is important that those members are also supported and have their queries and concerns addressed.  Please let your union representative know if you have concerns and any support you may require.   Please do not direct your concerns to any individual returning to work.

We ask all members to remember that it was a Government requirement that excluded some members from their workplace and with the lifting of the mandate they have the right to return.  We hope that the debates and controversy that swirled at the time the vaccination requirements were being implemented are not repeated and instead everyone focuses on the challenges we currently face with the Fire Crisis.

  • In recent weeks the NZPFU membership has worked incredibly hard in a well-executed campaign educating the public about the fire crisis and the impacts it has on the health, safety and welfare of our members including the impacts of long hours and low wages. The need for the campaign and industrial action remains, as the lifting of the vaccination mandate does not address the fire crisis and will not resolve the staffing crisis.
  • The primary cause of the staffing crisis is the ratio of career firefighters for each position is too low.  FENZ does not employ sufficient career firefighters to maintain minimum staffing.  It has become far to common for firefighters to be regularly working in excess of 80 hours in a 7-day period in an effort to keep their communities protected.  The likely impact of the lifting of the vaccination mandate will only be a reduction in the levels of extraordinary overtime but will not resolve the staffing crisis.

You can view the Amendment Order here: COVID-19 Public Health Response (Vaccinations) Amendment Order (No 5) 2022 (SL 2022/207) – New Zealand Legislation.

The relevant amendment is Clause 13 that amends Schedule 2 of the Covid-19 Public Health Response (Protection Framework) Order 2021.

In Schedule 2, replace items 7.2 and 7.3 with:

Workers who are employed or engaged by a general practice or a pharmacy and whose role involves being within 2 metres or less of a health practitioner or a member of the public for a period of 15 minutes or more
Workers who are employed or engaged by a certified provider and who, as part of their ordinary duties, come within 2 metres or less of a health practitioner or a person to whom health care services are provided for a period of 15 minutes or more

In unity,
Wattie Watson
National Secretary

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