SPC chair Hussein Rifai calls for clearer COVID-19 workplace vaccination guidelines

SPC Shepparton facility. Source: Supplied.

The chair of canned food manufacturer SPC says the government should make COVID-19 vaccine guidelines clearer so that businesses can avoid the onslaught of online abuse that SPC received when adopting its vaccine mandate.

SPC notified its workers and their union last week that staff must be vaccinated to work onsite from November. SPC’s vaccine policy exempts workers who are unable to receive a vaccine for health reasons and offers staff paid leave to get the jab and take time off if they experience adverse side effects.

Hussein Rifai, chair of SPC, says the manufacturing business was bombarded with hate email and online abuse for three days after its vaccine policy was first publicised in the media.

“Our staff worked through until 3am to 4am in the morning trying to control the social media uproar,” Rifai tells SmartCompany.

Rifai says businesses shouldn’t have to deal with hate mail from fringe groups that believe the vaccine is poisonous and other conspiracies.

“The government also doesn’t want to have to deal with that,” he says.

The Fair Work Ombudsman is set to update its guidelines on COVID-19 vaccines in the workplace in the coming weeks to provide some clarity around vaccination mandates in frontline settings.

Rifai’s view is that the guidelines should allow any business to make vaccines mandatory if it is unable to operate remotely.

“If you cannot work from home, if you are a construction worker, if you’re a worker in any sort of factory, you should have to get vaccinated,” he says.

Such guidelines would redirect community backlash over mandatory vaccine policies in the workplace towards governments and away from businesses.

“Then everybody will quietly send their memos to their staff and it won’t be as big of a deal,” he says.

Since announcing its COVID-19 vaccine mandate, SPC has also received criticism from the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU).

AMWU claims workers were not consulted with before SPC made the decision to make the vaccine compulsory and that the direction is unreasonable given current vaccine supply issues.

Jason Hefford, assistant secretary of AMWU in Victoria, said it was apparent SPC had not properly thought its policy through because workers had not been consulted.

“SPC have not given us clear answers on how the timeline of the demand can be met given there are supply and accessibility issues with the vaccine,” Hefford said.

Rifai refutes those claims saying that the decision to mandate the vaccine was a business decision based on providing a safe work environment to staff under state and federal workplace laws.

“The consultation starts in how we best implement the decision and implement it in a way that’s suited to the company and the staff,” he says.

Rolling meetings have taken place in SPC’s Shepparton factory this week. The meetings have included all staff regardless of whether they are members of a union. (About 50% of SPC’s workforce is unionised).

Rifai says the vast majority of his staff are supportive of the policy and he remains committed to working with both the union and his staff throughout this process.

Workers were given six weeks to make an appointment with their own doctor to receive medical advice about the vaccine, and a further six weeks to receive their first dose.


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Desmond SHerlock
Desmond SHerlock
9 months ago

I agree with Hussein Rifai that organizations and companies should be able to mandate vaccines for the people in their buildings, busses planes etc. This will turn out to be another blunder by Mr Morrison if he does not address this issue head on, instead of ducking and weaving like he did with is vaccine rollout. Bring on the vaccine passport, I say, or we will be having rolling locked downs for years to come.

9 months ago

Firstly, our Fed government can’t mandate vaccination as it’s against the Constitution. The States can but don’t want the political backlash, so it’s been duck-shoved to employers.

The Health Act amendment put forward by Fred Nile in NSW, will require employers to be held accountable for compensation if a worker is vaccine-injured, FOR THE LIFE OF THE EMPLOYEE, not just while they’re in employ.

Who has insurance that covers this? My Workers Comp policy certainly doesn’t.

Also, mandating vaccination is against the Nuremberg Code, especially if a person is coerced into an experimental situation, and make no mistake, these so-called ‘vaccines’ are experimental, which is why they’ve received only EUA with no Phase III clinical trial.

Iceland now has 86% vaccine penetration and is once again, facing a the pandemic with masks, social distancing and other measures: “About 75 per cent of those who contracted Delta in that town were fully vaccinated. About 470 cases were detected. Five were hospitalised. None died. But the study found the same levels of Covid Delta virus living in the noses and throats of both the vaccinated and unvaccinated.”


So how is an unvaccinated person a risk to anyone but themselves?

9 months ago

No body should have the right to in force anyone to have a injection that is still in trial, and sign a paper that indemnifies drug company.
Will Workcover cover these people if there employer threatens them with no jab no job. And can they take a package if there retrenched. or are they just trying to get out of paying sick pay.

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