WA vaccine mandate to have small impact on workforce

The COVID-19 vaccine mandate for the resources industry has now come into effect in Western Australia (WA), ensuring workers are kept safe.

The mandate was announced in early October for fly-in, fly-out workers and those across the state’s resources industry, with proof of first doses required by 12:01am on December 1.

Workers who refuse the vaccine are being placed on indefinite leave and are facing unemployment.

Association of Mining and Exploration Companies chief executive officer Warren Pearce said the uptake had been largely promising with only a small number of workers refusing the jab.

“We predict it to have a pretty small impact, as the vast majority of our employees have gotten vaccinated,” Pearce said.

“Some of those have done so reluctantly but have done so in accordance with the mandate.”

Whilst only a small number of workers have refused the jab, the number of people now out of work is significant given the state is in a current labour shortage as it is.

“We estimate it to be less than 1 per cent. Now, that’s not insignificant but will that mean shutdowns to operations? No. We will find ways to keep on going,” Pearce said.

The WA mining industry employs almost 150,000 people, meaning a missing 1 per cent will play a part in the state’s ongoing labour shortage issues.

It has been estimated that WA will require an additional 40,000 more resources employees by 2023 – a figure that won’t be helped by up to 15,000 unvaccinated people.

“We’re in a very labour constrained environment, we need all our workers to stay in the industry, we don’t want to lose anybody, and we hope they will come to the decision to get vaccinated,” Pearce said.

BHP and Rio Tinto have advocated strongly for the vaccination of their workforces, with their safety at the forefront of their decisions.

BHP considered mandatory vaccinations specific to its operations and set up on-site vaccination clinics to make the jab as available as possible.

Rio Tinto partnered with the state government to set up vaccination hubs around the state, targeting remote communities like the town of Tom Price in the Pilbara region.

Full vaccination will be expected of resources workers, workers in remote operations or working in rural and remote locations by January 1, 2022.

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