The Morrison Government has announced today that it will mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for those working in the aged care sector by September, but announced no plan as to how they would act to urgently vaccinate the two-thirds of aged care workers who are yet to receive their first dose, other than an inadequate $30 per dose worker payment for sick and vaccination leave for the 180,000 unvaccinated staff.

The ACTU and health care unions have been deeply frustrated by broken promises, timelines and lack of action. Today’s announcement falls far short of what is needed to get the job done.

The mandating of vaccines shifts the blame onto hard working aged care workers who were told they would be vaccinated at work, yet when residents were being vaccinated they were left out or offered left overs. It has now become very hard for many workers to get a vaccine at all.

The Morrison Government has a responsibility to facilitate as much access to the vaccine as possible – providing in-workplace vaccinations, and granting workers full paid leave to receive their vaccine doses and recover from any potential side effects. No worker – especially those in insecure work – should have to give up shifts and lose pay to receive their jabs. $30 will not cover the time taken for getting the vaccine, let alone the sick leave for the more than 20% who will experience side effects that prevent them from working.

The Morrison Government needs to prioritise increasing supply of the vaccine and effective delivery, rather than blaming the poor uptake on aged care workers, who are some of the most underpaid and overworked heroes of the pandemic.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Secretary Sally McManus,

“We have emergency meetings and Brigadiers; when we just need nurses with vaccines. 

“No more talk, no more half measures, just get the job done. Mobilise your resources to get teams to workplaces and support the casualised workforce so they are not out of pocket if they get side effects. $30 per dose for a worker just doesn’t cut it, especially when you are now mandating vaccines. Low paid workers are effectively funding the aged care vaccine rollout.

“Mandating the vaccine for aged care workers will not fix the fact that at the moment they cannot access them, with no at work vaccination program and limited supplies. The thing that really needs to be mandated is a vaccine team visiting every aged care home.

“Unless the Federal Government acts with urgency the country faces a winter with our most vulnerable Australians exposed.

“They have had all the time in the world, stop blaming the hard working aged care workforce and take responsibility for what is their job, organising and supplying the vaccine.