OPINION: Rural NZ is again getting the rough end of the stick when it comes to services - this time in relation to Covid-19 vaccinations.
Leggett says he wrote to Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins in January to enquire about vaccine prioritisation used by the Government to determine workers in essential industries.
“The trucking industry is keen to understand when its frontline workers, mainly drivers, might be in line for a vaccination and whether they will be given priority over the general population, given their importance in keeping the supply chain running,” says Leggett.
He says there is increasing urgency in getting truck drivers vaccinated because of the current Auckland lockdown.
“The yo-yoing lockdowns have significant impacts on moving freight and Covid outbreaks in Auckland put a large workforce at risk.
“Ports of Auckland and other port workers are being vaccinated and it is only a matter of time before high-risk businesses start demanding any workers to their sites also be vaccinated.”
Leggett says the RTF has asked Hipkins to consider truck drivers as a priority for vaccination due to the work they undertake.
“Transport operators are keen to mitigate risk and exposure of their employees to Covid-19 as soon as possible and some clarity on vaccination prioritisation would be useful so they can plan.
“We have also asked for legal clarification around employers being able to require their staff to be vaccinated.”
He says this could emerge as an issue in New Zealand and the RTF thinks it is relevant both for employers and employees in critical industries to understand the law.
“We recognise that the Government will not achieve a 100% vaccination rate, but it will be important to have frontline and critical staff vaccinated and we would like to be able to inform transport operators of their responsibilities and rights around employee vaccination requirements as soon as possible.”