Police COVID-19 vaccine mandate: Deputy PM Grant Robertson not worried about losing cops despite 14 pct unvaxxed

Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson is not worried about losing police after mandating COVID-19 jabs despite about 14 percent of cops being unvaccinated. 

Both police and Defence Force staff must have had their first dose by January 17 and the second dose by March 1, under new vaccination orders announced by Workplace Relations Minister Michael Wood on Friday. 

Police Commissioner Andrew Coster welcomed the mandate, but revealed there are still about 14 percent of cops who are yet to be fully vaccinated, while 92.2 percent have had at least one dose. 

As for the Defence Force, uniformed personnel are currently 98.4 percent fully vaccinated and civilian staff are 75 percent fully vaccinated. These rates do not include those who may have received vaccinations through the public health system. 

"It is not my desire to lose anyone from the organisation as a result of this new mandate and we will work with staff covered by the vaccination order to encourage them to get vaccinated," Coster said. 

"Our work does not always allow us to stay at arm's length from the people we deal with and vaccination is the only control that can mitigate the safety risk in those situations."

The Government has already mandated COVID-19 vaccination for about 40 percent of the workforce, including border and healthcare workers, education staff, Corrections, and all close contact businesses such as hospitality, events and gyms. 

Tertiary education, that takes place on-site, is also included at the 'red' level, once the new COVID Protection Framework, or 'traffic light' system, comes into effect on December 3. It's been confirmed Auckland will begin at 'red'. 

Businesses not covered by the mandate, but that want to require their staff to be vaccinated, can use a yet-to-be-launched vaccination assessment tool. More details can be found here

The latest District Health Board data shows 52 doctors, 518 nurses and 90 midwives have so far either been stood down, resigned or had their employment terminated because they have declined to be vaccinated. 

Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson.
Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson. Photo credit: Getty Images

Of those stood down, 51 staff are awaiting an AstraZeneca vaccination instead of the widely available mRNA Pfizer vaccine. Some staff will also be awaiting the outcome of applications for medical exemptions.

Despite the pushback with several protests held across the country to date in opposition to vaccine mandates, Robertson told reporters on Friday the Government is not worried about losing cops. 

"Oh, not particularly," he said. 

"As we've seen with the health and education workforces, we've ended up at the 98-99 percent level with those and there do need to be ongoing conversations with those police staff who are affected by this mandate. 

"But I'm confident as we've seen with those other workforces we'll get to similarly high levels with the police."

Robertson said the Government considers mandates carefully. 

"The process is similar to the one we've done with other workforces in that there is a process of working through with the workforce to give time to make that transition. But clearly the whole point of this is that we want them to be vaccinated and when we reach the endpoint of those discussions, if they aren't vaccinated, then they won't be able to undertake the duties of frontline police officers. 

"We've been purposefully working through mandates here. We take these decisions very seriously. We do not want to issue mandates where we don't believe there is a very pressing need to do so, and obviously with the police and the Defence Force they find themselves in situations where we believe it's appropriate. 

"We're taking it step by step."

Both police and Defence Force staff must have had their first dose by January 17 and the second dose by March 1.
Both police and Defence Force staff must have had their first dose by January 17 and the second dose by March 1. Photo credit: Getty Images

The move is supported by the New Zealand Police Association because it provides legal certainty.

"The vast majority of police are vaccinated, but as a microcosm of society there will be a variety of opinions amongst members - often strong on both sides," said Police Association vice president Mike McRandle.

"The board has been supportive of vaccinations but has been conscious of ensuring that the legal rights of members are maintained. The mandate resets that legal position and provides clarity for members.

"Looking at the court cases in New Zealand and Australia we can find no precedent that would be successful in overturning the legal mandate announced by the Government, but we will continue to monitor that space."

Non-vaccinated employees doing work that requires vaccination - either under mandates or an employer requirement - will be given a new four-week paid notice period if their employment agreements are terminated.

This gives these employees a final chance to get vaccinated before their employment agreements are terminated. Employers will be required to provide paid time off for employees to get vaccinated.