In 2020 the NZPFU and FENZ agreed to a Covid-19 voluntary vaccination roll-out plan that also protected the right of personnel to keep their vaccination-status confidential. Yesterday we re-confirmed those principles with FENZ and the National Commander has since released a Directive (attached) confirming it’s position had not changed. FENZ has confirmed only personnel travelling overseas for work are required to be vaccinated. The FENZ Directive also reminded personnel to respect personal decisions made by colleagues, and to continue to work together to provide the best service to the community.
The NZPFU is hearing from members across the spectrum of views on this issue. Some members find the situation particularly stressful. Discussion and information can be helpful, but it also can create division and tension. Sometimes it is in everyone’s interests to end the conversation and just agree to disagree.
- FENZ has confirmed there is no requirement to be vaccinated or to declare vaccination status.
- Everyone has a right to make a decision on their personal situation including acting on medical advice.
- Don’t assume someone’s views, personal situation or vaccination status if they don’t want to engage on the issue.
- No one should be made to feel vulnerable or isolated because of their views, or because they chose not to disclose their views.
- There is no separation at work between vaccinated and non-vaccinated.
Over the past 18 months the NZPFU and FENZ have worked collaboratively to adjust response protocols, PPE and station hygiene regimes as necessary to meet the challenges of Covid-19 outbreaks and Government-imposed restrictions. The NZPFU has had representatives at every level of the process. Our members have diligently implemented those protocols. Everyone can take pride in the implementation of those safe systems of work as they have helped keep our members safe. To date we have not had one member contract Covid-19 through the performance of their duties. We acknowledge there are new challenges with every new variant of the virus and that risks change with community transmission. We will continue to work with FENZ to make further adjustments as necessary.
This week the NZPFU National Council adopted the following policy (also attached) which has been discussed with Local representatives:
New Zealand Professional Firefighters Union
Te Kāhui Kaipatuahi o Aotearoa
COVID-19 VACCINATION POLICY
Everyone has a right to refuse medical treatment, a right to privacy including keeping their medical status confidential, and a right against discrimination. The challenge is the recognition and balancing of those rights with public policy designed for the protection of the public and for the greater good.
We accept that all Government-imposed restrictions on public movement and virus management plans have been implemented to protect the public health system and infrastructure. We understand that without those restrictions and plans, it was very likely the New Zealand health infrastructure would have been overwhelmed resulting in an inability to maintain the provision of the usual level of health service and the likely escalation in preventable deaths both Covid-19 related and other deaths that are not Covid-19 related.
For our members, the challenge is ongoing emergency medical response and other response to MIQ centres and borders during community transmission of the virus. This will be an ongoing and possibly an escalating risk as it is predicted the community transmission of the virus will not be contained once domestic restrictions are removed and international borders opened. The New Zealand Government accepts the current vaccinations available may not prevent the contraction or transmission of the virus, but reduces the severity of the symptoms which will be critical in ensuring the public health system and infrastructure is not overwhelmed.
In recognition of the risks faced during the Covid-19 pandemic, we strongly support the voluntary vaccination of our members and the general public. In doing so we recognise that not everyone is able or eligible to be vaccinated, including those on advice from their medical practitioners. We do not support mandatory vaccinations or employment being dependent on vaccination status.
Mutually agreed safe systems of work including enhanced response protocols and the mandatory use of appropriate PPE continue to keep our members safe. Those protocols may need to be further adapted and enhanced for predicted ongoing and widespread community transmission. We will work with FENZ and the Government to implement reasonable and effective measures.