Hospo workers need to put safety ahead of business as usual with Vaccine Passes

Unite Union is advising all hospitality workers to put the safety of workers and customers ahead of business as usual or expediency.
“If not following your employers instructions is what it takes to stay safe then so be it” said National Secretary John Crocker.  “The Health and Safety at Work Act is very clear – employees do not have to follow orders that are not safe. Currently, hospitality workers are expected to follow stringent guidelines to provide safe service for their customers. Unite expects employers to exercise the same care and consideration in providing a safe workplace for their staff”
Unite has two major concerns over the use of the Vaccine Pass in hospitality from tomorrow – dealing with aggression from customers who get denied entry without a vaccine pass and keeping workers safe from exposure to covid from those same people.
There is a consensus between unions, government and employers that staff who are not trained security professionals should not try to confront unvaccinated customers who refuse to show their pass. Unite’s view, however,  is that no employee should be forced to check passes if they don’t feel safe doing that.
“But the real problem is that just letting unvaccinated people inside to avoid confrontation actually creates more problems than it solves. You then have an aggressive, unvaccinated, likely unmasked person in the workplace, who is also not likely to follow safe social distancing.”
There is a very real risk both of further physical and verbal aggression and, of course, of exposure to covid.
“We are concerned that employees will be forced to serve these customers in the name of expediency. Not only will that put employees and customers at risk, but it will only take hours for word to get around the anti-vax online groups that just pushing through at that place will get you served without showing a vaccine pass.”
“If that happens we advise workers to simply withdraw to a safe distance or place and call the police or whatever other professional security is available. If employers find that too disruptive then they should either pay for security guards at the door or stand there themselves, rather than put their employees at risk.”
Unite’s specific advice for hospo workers is:
1. If you don’t feel safe checking vaccine passes for entry you should tell your manager and ask for a different job assignment.
2. If you encounter any aggression from a customer (physical OR verbal – you do not have to put up with verbal threats or abuse) you should withdraw immediately to a safe area.
3. If an unvaccinated customer (and/or unmasked, and/or not observing required social distancing) is not able to be stopped from entering your workplace then you are entitled to protect yourself both from aggression and the risk of being exposed to covid. Remove yourself to a safe place or distance and advise workmates and customers to do the same.
4. You do not have to follow an instruction from a manager that is unsafe (e.g. “just serve them so they will go away” – that places you at immediate risk and just encourages more of the same behaviour).
5. Very important – make sure any incident is recorded as a Health and Safety incident in writing (the same as if someone is injured at work). Make a copy of the incident report for yourself ( a photo of it on your phone is fine).
6. It is more important than ever that the proper processes are followed, especially on drive-thru and other contactless services, as unvaccinated (and potentially covid positive) people will be using those services. If you are not able, or being instructed not to use the proper precautions you are entitled to refuse to undertake the tasks involved.
Some general tips for dealing with any issue at work:
  • stay calm – don’t get angry or aggressive yourself.
  • do only what is needed to resolve the problem and then return to work (eg don’t walk out on a whole shift if removing yourself from your workstation for a short period is all that is required).
  • keep a good record – your smartphone is also a photocopier, camera, video recorder, sound recorder, email, text and DM recorder. Make use of it, especially to keep records of how your managers respond to the problem. Follow up any verbal discussions with written confirmation – even if it is only a short text message.
  • use the magic words if asked to do something that you think is wrong: “please put that in writing”. If a manager refuses to confirm their instructions in writing (again a simple text message is fine) then you are probably right. If it is a health and safety issue you can simply refuse to put yourself in harms way – it’s the law.
Hospitality workers can get advice from Unite’s HospoHelp service:
Free Phone: 0508 467 764
Text: 022 564 3577

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