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The Queensland branches of the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining, and Energy Union and other unions have taken BHP to the Fair Work Commission to resolve a dispute involving employees who have refused to provide their COVID-19 vaccination details. Unions are concerned that the mining giant is collecting sensitive information about them. Workers who do not agree to pass over the data by January 31 will be deemed to be unvaccinated and will most likely lose their employment if they are not vaccinated in the meantime. As of late December, up to 40% of BHP’s 11,000-strong workers in Queensland had submitted their information to its database.
The corporation claims that it needs complete COVID-19 vaccination information, including kind, dates, and unique reference numbers, to guarantee that employees are not forging their certificates. The CFMEU, on the other hand, claims that the Privacy Act only compels employees to present their immunization certificates, not to surrender them for collection.
BHP has already established that two employees provided it with false vaccination information, and it thinks that another four employees did the same. According to the committee, one dismissed employee’s red flag was that he had documented a much too short delay between AstraZeneca injections. Another certificate had a variable font, and the information on it had been stitched together, indicating that it had been cobbled together.
The CFMEU, on the other hand, maintained that if the employer had any doubts about the legitimacy of the vaccination, employees might offer further documentation, such as a statutory certification from the person who provided the immunization. Alternatively, if the worker’s spouse was present at the jab/shot, they may testify. “[BHP] uses a sledgehammer to crack a nut,” the union’s lawyer, Luke Tiley, told the panel in testimony.
Workers’ vaccination status should be visible; according to the union, BHP protested, saying the request was ridiculous. The commission hasn’t decided yet, even though the deadline for a double dose is less than two weeks away.
The controversy arose when the CFMEU successfully challenged BHP’s Mount Arthur vaccination mandate in New South Wales because the company had not sufficiently engaged unions. After a period of deliberation, BHP, on the other hand, revived the mandate. According to a BHP representative, the company asks employees to either submit their immunization history statement or their COVID-19 digital certificate to work.
BHP’s health and medical teams, he said, were the only ones who had access to the company’s data storage and the information contained inside. “Subject to local laws and regulations, such as public health directives, vaccination or immunization certificates submitted by the workforce into the Vaccine Data Capture Portal are disposed of after they have been reviewed by a qualified health, safety, and environment professional and their vaccination status recorded,” the spokesman explained.
Mining firms cannot simply insist on vaccination while neglecting all other COVID control measures, including sanitation, provision of needed N95 masks, and social distance – notably in the case of the highly infectious omicron variety – as a result of their vaccine mandate.