News Corp mandates COVID vaccination for Chullora print workers

Print workers at News Corp’s Chullora site have been told they will need to have at least one dose of a COVID vaccine by this Sunday evening, 19 September, in order to attend work.

It is the first major move by a printing company to require vaccinations for staff as lockdowns continue and outbreaks of the virus grow. The site is also located in one of Sydney’s Local Government Areas of concern.

It also comes after NSW Health extended the vaccine deadline for authorised workers in 12 Sydney LGAs of concern to Sunday September 19.

AMWU print and packaging secretary Lorraine Cassin has told Sprinter less than 10 workers from a 70-strong workforce are effected by the plan. She said workers that have not had their first dose by this Sunday night will not be allowed to work and will have to take annual leave or long service leave so they can be paid.

The Real Media Collective CEO Kellie Northwood said given the Chullora site is located in a LGA of concern, it does arguably have a higher possibility of increased health risk due to COVID.

“As such we support their position to keep their employees and operational site as safe as possible and implement a COVID vaccination initiative,” Northwood said, while acknowledging that implementing vaccination policies in workplaces is complex for businesses to implement,” Northwood said.

“The industry would always prefer some legislated government regulations and guidance, however to date both governments and Fair Work Ombudsman have only offered vague communications which are highly interpretative.

“Our view as an industry body, is the priority must be on providing safe workplace environments for all staff and contractors. Therefore a risk assessment must be undertaken across each workplace to remain consistent with public health orders and recommendations, individual rights of workers and the health risk of COVID infection.

“As an industry we are developing a Workplace Vaccination positioning statement, as we acknowledge each individual member company will have differing requirements.

“With that in mind, TRMC have determined to support our members case by case. We have collected member support for on-site vaccination options for staff which we have issued to government, we have also held a member briefing last week about the current rules and guidance provided from government and Fair Work and today we have issued our Industry Vaccination Initiative survey to determine where Members are in regards to their needs on vaccination policies in the workplace.

“From there we will provide drafted communication templates, policy documents and legal guidance across individual company needs.”

Newspapers including The Australian, The Daily Telegraph as well as the Sydney Morning Herald and the Australian Financial Review are printed at the site as part of a contract between Nine and News Corp.

News Corp’s managing director for NSW, Nicholas Gray, said in a statement to Sprinter:

“As a company, we are committed to providing the strongest COVID safe workplace and have provided the opportunity for all News Corp Australia staff in NSW to be vaccinated through a government-approved provider.  Our Sydney Print Centre staff at Chullora, in a NSW Health designated LGA of concern, perform work essential to the printing and distribution of trusted news and information, both from our company and others including Nine to ensure the public can make informed choices about the pandemic, and about much else.

“Their health and safety is a priority. After a period of consultation with our staff we will make it a requirement for anyone entering our Sydney Print Centre after 7pm on September 19 to provide evidence of having at least had their first vaccination dose.”

Cassin told Sprinter that News Corp has also informed her it is looking at expanding the arrangement nationally.

“We don’t support mandatory vaccinations,” Cassin told Sprinter.

“We support vaccinations, we support education and we support people going and talking to their doctors about their concerns. “We support giving people time to be able to grapple with this.

“Mandatory in our view just makes people that have any concerns dig their heels in and their mental health is our major concern while we get through this.”

She said rapid antigen testing – which was approved by NSW Health a few weeks ago and then at the last minute revoked at the end of August – needs to be mandated by the government and paid for my Medicare to help keep the population safe.

“We support rapid testing for those that are not vaccinated. We think this should be mandated by government and paid for by Medicare. We support vaccinations though, but just not mandatory. We have got a lot of members that are quite concerned about this and come next Monday,” she said.

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