News Corp mandate COVID-19 vaccine for print workers in industry first

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Media giant News Corp has told staff at its printing plant in Sydney they will need to have had at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine by next Sunday evening or be shut out of their workplace.

While the vast majority of employees at the Chullora plant in Western Sydney are vaccinated, those who are unvaccinated by September 19, even for medical reasons, will have to speak to their manager and may have to take leave.

News Corp will mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for workers at its Chullora printing press.Credit:Wolter Peeters

It is the first move by a major media company to require vaccinations for staff as several major players in the industry begin to mull whether to require jabs for other employees, including journalists, as the number of cases in NSW and Victoria grows.

Chullora is in one of the council areas the NSW government is most concerned about because of coronavirus cases and transmission, which prompted News Corp to introduce the rule as a way of keeping its staff safe and the plant functioning.

It prints newspapers including The Australian and The Daily Telegraph as well as The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian Financial Review as part of a contract between Nine, the owner of this masthead, and News Corp.

From September 20, workers from the local government areas of concern, which include Chullora and nearby council areas, will not be allowed to leave their council area for work unless they have had at least one dose of a vaccine or a medical exemption.

The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, which covers printing workers, does not support mandatory vaccination and argues it will increase vaccine hesitancy.

“Calls for mandatory vaccination should only come with public health orders and print workers are not subject to public health orders,” said Lorraine Cassin, the union’s print and packaging secretary.

She argued cooperating with unions on steps such as safety plans and paid vaccine leave were the best way to get workers vaccinated. News Corp has already made a deal for a contractor to offer vaccine appointments to its staff.

The Fair Work Ombudsman, the federal workplace regulator, has advised businesses in areas of high coronavirus transmission where staff cannot work from home that they are more likely than others to be legally able to mandate jabs, but that advice depends on each firm’s circumstances and is untested in court.

News Corp’s managing director for NSW, Nicholas Gray, confirmed it would require vaccinations for its print staff at the Chullora facility, who he described as essential workers distributing news and information to the public, after a period of consultation. “Their health and safety is a priority,” Mr Gray said.

News Corp’s Australasia chairman Michael Miller told a podcast that mandating vaccines was a live discussion within the company.Credit:Jessica Hromas

Mr Gray’s superior, executive chairman Michael Miller, told a podcast from industry consultants Crawford Media this week that mandates were a live issue at the company.

“I’d prefer not to send someone on a round, [on] which they could be exposed to [the coronavirus] but they chose not to vaccinate,” Mr Miller said. “Do you mandate that or do you move them to another round?”

A Nine spokeswoman said the company’s response to the coronavirus, including testing at worksites, was constantly evolving and it encouraged vaccination.

“We have recently asked our people how they would feel about mandating vaccination to help inform any decision we take,” the spokeswoman said.

Paul Murphy, chief executive of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, said the union fully supported vaccination though he said there could be no general rule on mandates because of differences between workplaces.

“Employers must not rush this process,” Mr Murphy said. “They must engage with employees and contractors and explain their situation respectfully as consultation is critical to ensure everyone is informed and moving in the right direction.”

An ABC spokesman said the broadcaster was monitoring the situation and following health advice on vaccination. Seven was also approached for comment.

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