The New Zealand customs agency has fired nine border workers who refused to receive the Covid-19 vaccine. The country has required that all frontline border workers be vaccinated by the end of April.
In February, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the government would not make the vaccine mandatory for front-line personnel and that those who rejected the vaccine would be moved to secret posts.
But no other job could be found to redeploy the nine workers who had fixed-term jobs at the maritime border, said Jacinda Funnell, Customs deputy executive director for people and capacity.
“We regret that these individuals have had to leave employment and we understand the difficult situation they face,” Funnell said in a statement.
He said that about 95% of the Customs front-line personnel to be vaccinated had received their first dose and 85% had received the second dose of the vaccine.
Customs had been discussing options with staff since early March, he said, telling them that “the options for redeployment were very limited because there were no other Customs functions in the area.” He said the agency had also explored redistribution options across the public service.
A Ministry of Health order issued under the Covid-19 Public Health Response Act has made it a legal requirement that anyone working in high-risk border settings be vaccinated before the May 1 deadline.
In April, the New Zealand Defense Force threatened to fire service members who refused to get vaccinated against Covid-19.
In correspondence with the staff Posted by RNZDefense Force Chief Air Marshal Kevin Short said, “Choosing not to meet basic immunization readiness criteria will result in a review of a person’s future service.”
New Zealand unions have spoken out against firing workers who reject the vaccine, saying they should be redistributed instead. Union e tū you said in your member FAQ: “We do not support mandatory vaccination and we will not tolerate discrimination against workers who choose not to be vaccinated.” The Union of the Public Services Association has said unvaccinated border personnel “should be reassigned and their labor rights protected.”