SAPTU calls on government to relieve employers from responsibility for mandatory vaccines

As the University of Cape Town (UCT) announced they are on the verge of implementing mandatory jabs for staff and students, SAPTU (South African Parastatal and Tertiary Institutions Union) would like to throw the responsibility about compulsory vaccinations back to the government.

The Consolidated Directions on Occupational Health and Safety Measures of 28 May 2021 contains a provision for employers to decide whether it requires their employees to vaccinate (Reg 3(1)(a)(ii)). It then sets out the procedure to be followed: a plan is to be formulated, unions and/or representatives consulted and the like. However, the regulations also contain (subregulation 4) factors that must be considered, such as the right to bodily integrity, religious beliefs, and opinion. This leads to the real issue at hand – if and when someone can be forced to vaccinate.

“In SAPTU’s opinion, the government is abdicating its responsibility by encumbering the volatile labour market with resolving underlying issues,” says adv. Ben van der Walt, the general secretary of SAPTU. “In the present framework, the coercive element is coupled to someone’s contract of employment. The stark choice is between being vaccinated or being unemployed. It is iniquitous and should never have been necessary. If the government believes that mass vaccination is the answer to overcoming the coronavirus, it should not make it employers’ responsibility to handle.”

In light of recent developments at universities, where SAPTU serves many members, the union offered employees (in all industries) support and legal advice to protect their jobs.

“SAPTU’s primary goal is to protect members’ rights and choices at work,” says adv. van der Walt. “If the government insists on employers making the final call on compulsory vaccination, we demand to be included in discussions at tertiary institutions when they are deliberating on vaccine policies. SAPTU believes – under the present regulations – that employees should be able to make decisions about vaccination without it affecting their employment.”

With more members at institutions, SAPTU will have a more significant influence in making policies. This is not just important when discussing mandatory jabs, but also in all matters affecting staff.

“Even though we are focussing on higher education institutions with this campaign, any employee at any place of work may – by law – join a union to represent them in work-related matters,” says adv. Van der Walt. “SAPTU is apolitical, and its only priority is to ensure our members have a fair working environment with equality, dignity and prosperity.”

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Issued by:                  SAPTU

Date:                           15 September 2021

Enquiries:                  Adv Ben van der Walt, General Secretary SAPTU                                                           Cell.: 083 260 8548