“And as we approach what is typically disaster season in Australia, we hope that having fully vaccinated teams will help us more easily move people across state borders to assist should there be a natural disaster,” he said.
Industrial law allows businesses to issue staff with “lawful and reasonable” directions, which most legal experts agree includes vaccination for people who cannot work from home, so long as appropriate exemptions are offered.
A spokeswoman for the Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union, which represents Telstra technicians, said it supported vaccination but was getting legal advice ahead of a meeting with the company on Tuesday.
“Unlike the Telstra CEO, our members have been on the front line of the nation’s pandemic response – putting their own safety and that of their families at risk for over a year in order to keep our communities connected,” the spokeswoman said. “If he thinks he can sack those same essential workers who may have a genuine medical exemption to vaccination, he is mistaken.”
In response, a Telstra spokesman reiterated the firm’s position that vaccination was essential. “A COVID vaccination is required to safely perform the role given people work in our frontline and business-critical areas and are most at risk.”
Brooke Muscat, deputy national president of the Community and Public Sector Union, which represents office and call centre staff at Telstra, said the company’s priority should be on assisting staff who overwhelmingly wanted to be vaccinated to get a jab.
Telstra has already offered incentives worth about $200 via an internal rewards program to staff who get vaccinated, as well as time off work.
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