Unvaccinated border workers may continue in some frontline MIQ jobs for the next three weeks before they are moved to other roles.
Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield, speaking during today's 1pm COVID-19 update, said employers of border staff had started having conversations with them about moving into other non-frontline roles if they refused the vaccine.
Staff who refused to get a vaccination could still be working for another three weeks before the government forced them into other roles. Bloomfield said those workers were at the "head of the queue" for having a conversation about redeployment.
"They won't have been required to be redeployed yet, the end date for that has always been May," he said.
The delay was because moving that number of staff off the frontline would have a knock-on effect, Bloomfield said.
"There is a very good practical reason for this, you can't immediately withdraw 10 or 20 percent of your workforce and still run the facilities."
E tū organiser Mat Danaher said it was important the remaining few weeks be used to address workers' fears and concerns about getting the vaccine.
"It does make sense to redeploy people from high-risk areas if they can't be vaccinated, but at the end of the day they have been working in these roles unvaccinated since the beginning of the MIQ system and nothing has changed expect the vaccination has become available," Danaher said.
While the union agreed all workers should be vaccinated by 1 May, any that had not and needed to be moved should be with no penalty, he said.
"We accept they may need to be deployed but it should be to work of equivalent value - so similar wages, similar hours of work."
The government and unions initially agreed a ten week window for frontline workers to get vaccinated or be moved to other roles.
National's COVID-19 response spokesperson Chris Bishop said he wanted all border workers who weren't vaccinated against COVID-19 to be removed from the frontline immediately.
"We've now come to the point where the rule should be if you're on the frontline you have to be vaccinated and if you choose not to be you can't work at the frontline. It should be a pretty simple rule," Bishop said.
He said it was "astounding" unvaccinated staff would be allowed to continue working on the frontline for the remainder of April.
This follows a third worker at the Grand Millennium managed isolation hotel in Auckland who tested positive for COVID-19 yesterday.
Head of MIQ Brigadier Jim Bliss said a rule change would come into place next month.
"It's our expectation that any worker that comes into work at our facilities comes in vaccinated. That's been the conversation with employers - both government and private - late last week setting out expectations for that to occur on May the first," Bliss said.