The meat industry backs the mandatory vaccination for all its employees after an announcement from the government that this will be the case for the employees of the health sector and education.
The Meat Industry Association of New Zealand mainly reasons that it is because the industry is among those that have the highest risks of Covid-19 transmissions.
Esther Guy-Meakin who serves as the spokesperson of the Meat Industry Association said that they have sent a letter to Ayesha Verral who serves as the Food Safety and Health Minister. Their reasoning was that their workers work in indoor environments where they are required to work in proximity. They have difficulties properly following sanitation protocols and wearing PPEs.
Experts have advised industries to utilize an outdoor setting to allow better ventilation and more space for social distancing which is not feasible for the meat industry. Because of this, their best protection would be to have all its workers fully vaccinated. They also said that they are currently actively encouraging their staff to be vaccinated on their own accord.
They also said that they are open to any suggestions and analysis of their plants to see a way of continuing operations. However, they see this as too complex to be implemented which is why they prefer a sector-wide mandate.
Meanwhile, Horticulture New Zealand is also looking forward to receiving certainty about vaccine supplies for their workers. As part of the industry that handles and produces food in small pack houses, they are asking the government to have more defined rules and regulations for vaccination in the workplace.
Given that currently, vaccination is a personal choice for non-mandated workers, employers are unsure about the protocols that they will implement. Even if one employee refuses to be vaccinated, they will have a dilemma in the actions that they will implement given that they must take into consideration the rights of the worker and the health standards which they have to follow. This is even more important given that they are producing food.
Nadine Tunley who serves as the Chief Executive Officer of Horticulture New Zealand said that they would need more solid protocols to properly continue operating their businesses. She stressed that the government needs to ensure clarity in the rules. They said that aside from helping employers, it will also help their staff by ensuring that they would not have to wear PPE or have to follow separate shifts of work.