Education small business Agriculture | October 12, 2021

Kealy urges rapid testing solution for workforce shortages

Member for Lowan Emma Kealy has called on the Health Minister to permit rapid testing for workers who are not vaccinated by the state government’s mandated deadline, to avoid looming workforce shortages.

Ms Kealy has been contacted by people across a wide range of businesses and industries that are facing significant reductions in services or closures due to an inability to backfill for unvaccinated workers, who will not be able attend their workplaces after October 15.

Ms Kealy said there was already a critical shortage of workers in many industries, including education, childcare, hospitality and agriculture, and the mandate would only exacerbate these issues by forcing business and providers to furlough staff who had not been vaccinated.

“I have been contacted by parents in Horsham and Hamilton who have been told that childcare will not be available from the mandated vaccinated date, simply because some workers will not be vaccinated by the mandated deadline and these roles cannot be filled,” she said.

“A small school in my electorate will lose half their full-time teachers due to the mandatory vaccination deadline, and it is the young students – who will finally be back in the classroom after months away from the classroom and their mates – who will pay the price and won’t have any teacher available in the classroom to support their education.

“Business owners have also contacted me around the difficulty in finding staff to fill key roles to ensure they can keep their doors open. On recently speaking to the owner of a local hospitality business, they advised they will lose four of their seven workers after the mandatory vaccination deadline, meaning they can’t open.

“We’re weeks away from harvest, yet unvaccinated workers will not be able to perform essential support roles. Given the great majority of this work involves no contact at all with other humans and is time-critical, this could be devastating for our agricultural sector.”

Ms Kealy said she encouraged everyone to be vaccinated, but it was clear that the mandate was having unintended consequences for local services and businesses by reducing the available workforce.

“An inability to fill these vacancies in the immediate future will result in a significant impact on the wider community, emphasised in sparsely-populated rural and regional Victoria where there simply isn’t a fully-trained workforce waiting in the wings for a job,” she said.

“Alternatives must be considered, particularly in regions where there are no localised cases of COVID and very high rates of vaccination.

“I therefore ask the Minister to allow workers who are not vaccinated by the mandated deadline to undertake rapid COVID testing to ensure the ‘unintended consequences’ of a reduced workforce does not inadvertently yet significantly cut access to essential services and businesses in our wider community.”

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