Tertiary staff union wants in on the talks over mandatory vaccinations

By Zodidi Dano Time of article published Sep 8, 2021

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The South Africa Parastatal and Tertiary Institutions Union (Saptu) is demanding to be included in policy discussions over mandatory vaccinations.

“The Bill of Rights in the South African Constitution states that everyone has the right to bodily and psychological integrity – which includes the right to security in and control over their body. Therefore, Saptu demands to be included in any formulation of policies regarding mandatory vaccinations, as its primary purpose is to protect job security,” the union said.

According to the union, a number of universities, including the University of Johannesburg (UJ) and the Stellenbosch University (US), confirmed they are considering mandatory Covid-19 vaccination jabs for students and staff.

The union, which has members at UJ and SU, said it was already aware of the University of North West’s (NWU) decision not to implement mandatory jabs at this stage.

Saptu general-secretary advocate Ben Van der Walt said the union understood that these institutions, just like other places of work, want to manage the pandemic.

Van der Walt said: “But Saptu will never force a policy which goes against the Bill of Rights – and in which we had no input before its implementation – onto our members. On the contrary, if we are involved with discussions over these policies, we can ensure that we protect the rights of our members, whether they prefer to be vaccinated or not.”

The union said it wanted to be updated on the policy direction of other universities as well regarding mandatory vaccinations. It warned it would act before accepting “such policies”.

“In no way do we want to insinuate that we are for or against vaccinations against the Coronavirus. But we do respect the Bill of Rights, which states that all South Africans have the right to freedom of thought, belief and opinion,” said Van der Walt.

Private school, Curro Holdings, recently threatened retrenchments for staff refusing to vaccinate.

According to unions, private school staff sign a different contract from that signed by public school staff. And, with that contract, the employer is entitled to retrench an employee due to the breach of operational requirement clause in the contract.

Curro Holdings said it was considering this route to ensure the safety of learners.

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