FIFO workers are fighting back against a WA government order for them to be vaccinated or face losing their jobs.
Mandatory jabs are being backed by unions, but thousands of workers have bombarded WA Premier Mark McGowan’s social media counts, angry at being forced to roll up their high-vis sleeves.
Workers will need to have had their first COVID jab by December 1.
Abby Henley is one of an estimated 140,000 workers under new orders to be fully vaccinated by New Year’s Day.
She’s a health and safety consultant and not a FIFO worker, so she didn’t think she’d be affected.
But it’s not just miners being told to get jabbed.
The directive is also aimed at others engaged in WA’s resources sector, encompassing exploration, mining, the oil and gas industries, and others who work in remote locations or operate critical infrastructure including rail services.
‘Would most probably leave’
Abby is starting a family and her GP has recommended she get vaccinated outside the first trimester – meaning she won’t make the deadline.
“I don’t want to do anything that will affect falling pregnant and having a healthy child, so I would most probably leave (the job), but I don’t want to,” she said.
She says if push comes to shove, she’d rather leave first before she is stood down.
“I’m not holding anything against my employer, they’re incredibly supportive of families,” she said.
“If it’s law, they’ve got to follow through with it.”
And Abby’s not alone.
The Premier’s Facebook page was inundated with 6000 comments, most pushing back against mandatory vaccination.
Recruitment agencies expect 10 to 20 per cent of the workforce has been caught offside.
‘If it’s law, they’ve got to follow through with it.’
“For the mining sector, I think it means we’re going to have projects cancelled and delayed because we’re going to have tighter restrictions on workforces,” Lezly D’Limi from recruitment agency Talentko said.
If that future is to be avoided, unions say the government needs to improve its messaging with workers.
“We should be able to allay worker’s fears around the rollout when we know the details and when unions are brought into the conversation,” Union WA’s Owen Whittle said.
The health advice is that vaccine mandates are lawful in the mining industry because of its close ties to remote Aboriginal communities, which are especially vulnerable to COVID.
It’s possible vaccines won’t be mandated in low-risk industries – but low-risk doesn’t mean there is no risk, according to WA’s chief health officer Andy Robertson.
“Being fully vaccinated you are at a lot less risk to the people you’re working with and your community,” he said.