Tough choice

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Before any body bag is moved, it has to be decontaminated and moved into the temporary morgue in Goroka, Eastern Highlands. – Picture supplied by the Eastern Highlands health authority

THE Government says that an employer who feels that the workplace safety of its workers is being comprised may enforce the Occupational Health and Safety Act to ensure their safety.
Minister for Labour and Industrial Relations Tomait Kapili was responding yesterday to a plan by the National Capital District Commission (NCDC) to take off the payroll any employee still unvaccinated by Nov 1.
The NCDC is allowing time-off to employees yet to receive the Coronavirus (Covid-19) vaccine from today until the end of the month to get the jab.
Kapili told The National yesterday that the NCDC or any employer who considered that workplace safety was compromised “have the right to take a stand under the Occupational Health and Safety Act”.
But he said the Government position was that vaccination should not be compulsory.
“The NCDC knows the Government’s position which is that vaccination is not compulsory.
“The virus is here and the onus it is on individuals to be vaccinated,” he said.
According to the OHS legislation, Kapili said the employer reserved the right to ensure the safety of its workers if a safety risk existed.
“Under the OHS Act, the NCDC (may) exercise (its) right (to ensure its) employees are safe,” he said.
“The unvaccinated are a threat to other workers.
“The economy must (survive).
“Viruses, including the Covid-19 are here to stay. We have to find a way to manage it.”
Kapili said it would be best if the “employers and employee come to an understanding”.
“We (department) remind the employers to be mindful (as) they might be losing key personnel who contribute to the company,” he said.
NCD Governor Powes Parkop said the NCDC board would meet soon to discuss the plan outlined in an internal memo this week by City Manager Bernard Kipit.
The NCDC plan includes the wearing of coloured identification cards to indicate those who have been vaccinated.
Parkop said the plan – subject to board approval – was based on the OHS legislation.
“The city manager has to take all steps necessary to protect the welfare of the staff and to protect the commission so it functions with little hindrance,” Parkop said.
“As the municipal government or city authority, the commission must function to ensure essential municipal services continue as they are important to the city. Protecting employees against irresponsible (ones) is an important responsibility of the management and board.”