Member for Euroa and Deputy National Leader Steph Ryan has called on the Health Minister to permit rapid testing for workers who are not vaccinated by the state government’s mandated deadline, to avoid looming workforce shortages.
The call comes after businesses and industries across the electorate raised concerns that they will have to scale back services or close due to an inability to backfill for unvaccinated workers, who will not be able attend their workplaces after Monday.
Ms Ryan said there was already a critical shortage of workers in many industries, including education, childcare, hospitality and agriculture, and the mandate would only exacerbate those shortages by forcing business and providers to furlough staff who had not been vaccinated.
“I have been contacted by farmers in my electorate who are already struggling through staffing shortages and will now be impacted by a mandate that requires individuals who work acres away from one another to be vaccinated or become unemployed, further crippling businesses,” Ms Ryan said.
“Local farmers are facing difficulties finding shearers and dairy farmers have lost milkers.
“Given the great majority of this work involves little contact with other humans, this could have serious animal welfare issues and be devastating for our agricultural sector.”
“Businesses are also incredibly concerned about the legal ramifications come Friday should they have to make decisions around unvaccinated workers.
“The government has not provided any clarity to businesses who are worried about privacy, unfair dismissal and what unvaccinated workers are entitled to receive.
“Without any sort of legal framework businesses feel extremely vulnerable to legal action, which is just another source of stress from a government that shows an incredible lack of understanding.”
Ms Ryan said while she strongly urged everyone to get vaccinated, it was clear that the government’s sweeping vaccine mandates were having unintended consequences for local services and businesses by reducing the available workforce.
“An inability to fill these vacancies in the immediate future will result in a significant impact on the wider community, emphasised in rural and regional Victoria where there simply isn’t a fully-trained workforce waiting in the wings for a job,” Ms Ryan said.
“Alternatives must be considered, particularly in regions where there are no lockdowns and very high rates of vaccination.
“I therefore ask the Minister to allow workers who are not vaccinated by the mandated deadline to undertake rapid COVID testing to ensure the ‘unintended consequences’ of a reduced workforce does not inadvertently yet significantly cut access to essential services and businesses in our wider community.”