‘No jab, no job’ covid policy of PNG employers stirs constitutional row

Lae workers protest against covid jab
Five hundred employees of Mainland Holdings Limited (MHL) walked off their jobs in Lae this week in protest over their management’s mandatory covid-19 vaccine policy. Image: EMTV News

Asia Pacific Report newsdesk

Papua New Guinean chief executives believe the country’s entire workforce needs to be vaccinated against covid-19 to be fully productive, says Business Council of PNG executive director Douveri Henao.

Although there seems to be a large number of vaccine hesitant people, Henao said that sooner or later it would be mandatory for companies or businesses that have more human contact, reports the PNG Post-Courier.

However, Lae Mayor James Khay said business houses in the country’s second-largest city must not force their employees to be vaccinated as this was against their constitutional rights of freedom of choice.

Khay said company managers, supervisers, human resource or anybody in management had no right to force their employees to get vaccinated as this was optional, not compulsory.

He said companies imposing strict “no jab, no job” policies as a preventive measure against covid-19 must remember that they would be depriving the rights of their employees to decide. This was totally wrong.

The controversy arose after 500 employees of Mainland Holdings Limited (MHL) walked off their jobs in Lae in protest over the their management’s vaccine policy.

Mainland Holdings Limited (MHL) management, in an unsigned circular, has advised staff members who have been vaccinated to come back to work.

Workers’ petition
In the company’s response to a five-point petition presented by staff to the company directors, the company advised:

  • The company’s vaccination policy will not change; and
  • The company will follow “Niupela Pasin” protocols

MHL has agreed to pay wages and salaries, long service leave entitlements, rental fees and other entitlements.

All payments will be paid into bank accounts in compliance with company policies

The CEO refused to resign for keeping employees, families and the business safe.

Meanwhile, a major political party in the coalition government has weighed in on the “no jab, no job” controversy, saying it would support the people in a fight against companies demanding that their employees get vaccinated or lose their jobs.

The United Labour Party’s acting secretary Ruben Giusu, speaking from Lae, told the Post-Courier citizens had the constitutional right to choose whether or not get the covid-19 vaccine.

He said the party had met with unions in Madang and in discussion with the unions in Morobe Province about this and other issues affecting workers around the country.

“We have also received a petition from the Morobe Union and will be presenting that to the Prime Minister’s office,” he said.

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