Supermarkets make mandatory vaccination call

Hundreds of thousands of retail workers will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with major supermarkets Woolworths, Coles and Aldi announcing plans to roll out vaccination mandates.

While Woolworths and Aldi’s plans apply to all staff across Australia, Coles will only require workers in NSW, Victoria and the ACT to get the jab.

Westpac and the Commonwealth Bank revealed mandatory vaccine policies for their staff last week

Woolworths said it planned to make COVID vaccines mandatory for all staff “in the coming months”.

“After careful review of the best medical advice, we’ve made the decision to require all of our team members in Australia to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19,” Woolworths Group CEO Brad Banducci said.

“We have 170,000 team members across our stores, distribution centres and support offices, and more than 1200 retail stores.

“With each store welcoming an average 20,000 customers a week, a single team member can come into contact with quite literally thousands of people in the course of a normal working week.”

Unless public health orders come into effect sooner, the proposed timeline for the full vaccination requirement in ACT, NSW, NT, Victoria and WA is 31 January, and 31 March in the other states.

Worries over potential COVID spread in stores after restrictions ease
Coles is not implementing a nationwide vaccine mandate at this stage.

Coles Group CEO Steven Cain said there were concerns about COVID-infected people visiting stores as restrictions relaxed in NSW, Victoria and the ACT.

“We’ve been pleased with the uptake of the vaccine by our team members, and we owe it to them to ensure that as many of their colleagues as possible also do their bit by getting the jab,” he said.

Coles staff in Victoria will be required to be fully vaccinated by 26 November and NSW and ACT staff by 17 December.

But Coles will not mandate vaccinations for staff working in its stores in Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania.

Instead it said it would continue to work with health authorities and team members to “strongly encourage” workers to be vaccinated.

Aldi will require all its workers across the country to be vaccinated, but has not yet set a timeline.

Aldi Australia CEO Tom Daunt said there were cases overseas where people had been exposed to COVID in supermarkets after restrictions eased.

“Our view is that requiring all employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in the future is the best measure to ensure the health and safety of our teams and our customers,” he said.

“We have commenced consultation with all of our employees to gather their input to our proposed safety plans and the best implementation timeline.”

The union for retail fast food, warehouse and online retail workers, the SDA, said it strongly encouraged retail workers to get vaccinated for their health and safety.

“Shop and warehouse workers have done an extraordinary job on the frontline of the pandemic, working day in and day out to keep up an essential service and they need to be protected from the real threat of COVID-19 exposure,” the national secretary, Gerard Dwyer, said in a statement.

“We accept the view of the majority of medical and scientific experts that vaccination not only better ensures the health of workers it also minimises the very real risks to their families as well as other employees and the general public.”

Vaccines have been made compulsory across aged care and construction in Victoria, a range of customer-facing sectors that are now open again across NSW, and a few companies in the private sector like SPC and Qantas.

The Northern Territory and Western Australia governments already mandate vaccinations for retail workers.

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