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Sacci wary of mandatory vaccinations, at least for now

The business lobby organisation said the new Omicron variant and restrictions among major trading partners had led to a slump in both exports and imports in November. Pictrure: pixabay.com.

The business lobby organisation said the new Omicron variant and restrictions among major trading partners had led to a slump in both exports and imports in November. Pictrure: pixabay.com.

Published Dec 10, 2021

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The South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Sacci) has remained circumspect, at least for now, on the issue of mandatory Covid-19 vaccination in the workplace after business confidence waned in November.

Sacci’s Business Confidence Index (BCI) released yesterday fell to 92.8 points in November from 94.9 points in October, upsetting the recovery seen after the July unrest.

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The business lobby organisation said the new Omicron variant and restrictions among major trading partners had led to a slump in both exports and imports in November.

To protect economic recovery, Sacci said it remained important how the Covid-19 pandemic was managed and communicated, but concurred that improved vaccine application had led to a sense of return to economic and business normality.

Sacci chief executive Alan Mukoki, however, said they did not want to rush into taking a decision on the matter until its members were unanimous on the approach.

This as the Covid-19 and the looting mayhem in July had already put a brake on the upward momentum and had a negative impact on business and investor confidence.

“We have not yet taken a position on mandatory vaccination as such per se, purely because we only met yesterday (Tuesday) with our membership,” Mukoki said.

“We cannot easily take a position on an issue as controversial as this.

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“So we have given members a return date to come back on Wednesday next week and report on the way forward.”

A growing number of JSE-listed companies have already started mandating their workers to get vaccinated to ensure a safe workplace environment.

The National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) on Tuesday recommended the implementation of mandatory vaccinations in workplaces while also adding that access to certain venues should be allowed only to those who are vaccinated.

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But this has opened up companies to potential legal challenges.

The JSE itself is currently reviewing its policy as it is committed to providing a safe working environment, according to the chief operating officer and acting Human Resources director, Itumeleng Monale.

Monale said more than 80 percent of the JSE employees were fully vaccinated, based on a recent internal survey.

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“We are currently reviewing our policy, as well as engaging our employees, regarding vaccination,” Monale said.

“The JSE will also align with any government policy regarding whether mandatory vaccinations should be implemented in the workplace in the future.”

In June, a directive from the Department of Employment and Labour permitted employers to introduce mandatory vaccination policies in their workplaces provided certain consultation requirements were met.

Mukoki criticised the manner in which the initial announcement on the Omicron variant was made, which led to widespread travel bans against South Africa and other countries.

He said travel restrictions had an immediate impact before considering more information on the new variant, occurring at a stage where the recovery in the economy was gaining traction.

“The disclosure by South African scientists sparked greater concern and negatively impacted the business climate,” Mukoki said.

“These announcements should be made with greater circumspection taking account of broader implications.

“Hopefully the rushed decisions by other countries on travel restrictions will be tempered as more information on the omicron variant emerges.”

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BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE

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