COVID-19

Outrage over Victoria’s unvaxxed teacher ruling

It is “teacher against teacher” at some schools, with teachers who remained in their roles throughout the pandemic expressing outrage that staff returning on June 24 – when the mandate is lifted – will be paid over the school holidays.Teachers who were “really opposed or scared” to get their three vaccine doses but did so to keep their jobs feel like the pressure placed on them to be fully jabbed was unnecessary. From midnight on Friday, teachers, school staff and childcare workers will no longer be required to have three Covid vaccine doses, along with workers in food distribution, seafood processing and quarantine accommodation.But the order will remain in place for staff working in specialist schools.Around just 200 public school teachers, along with teachers from independent schools, who lost their jobs or were stood down can return to work or apply for new roles.But school community leaders have reported concern over the divide between vaxxed and unvaxxed staff, whose return to the classroom is expected to do little to curb the major teacher shortages continuing to plague schools. One source, who did not want to be named, told the Herald Sun state school principals were already dealing with vaccinated teachers angry over the mandate’s removal for such low numbers of staff.“There’s already concern about that tension between staff who were vaccinated not being happy about these people who managed to hang on who are all of a sudden allowed back in,” he said.“They (principals) had to deal with implementing government policy and they were at the frontline of implementing a policy that was unpopular with some people. And all of a sudden, they have to deal with these people coming back on site.“The stresses of not having enough staff will continue.”Alphington Grammar School principal Dr Vivianne Nikou said there were several older staff members at the school who would expect to be kept safe because they were immunocompromised. “Many of my staff want to travel and are careful not to expose themselves unnecessarily,” she said. “New appointees may not wish to declare their vaccination status and therefore best I keep my staff open to this being a reality.”The Victorian Independent Education Union said it was a “significant risk” to place unvaccinated staff back in schools. “The risk of serious, long-term illness or death as a result of contracting Covid is far higher for unvaccinated people,” it said.“Even more significant is the risk to unvaccinated workers in a high-contact workplace such as a school.”A state government spokeswoman said: “The Victorian government teaching service is one of the most highly-vaccinated cohorts in the nation – with more than 99.8 per cent of teachers triple-dosed.”There are 280 teachers permitted to return to work from either termination or leave without pay.There are 351 terminated teachers who did meet any vax requirements after six months’ leave without pay. The mandate removal follows a former teacher at Ivanhoe Girls’ Grammar School just last week losing her appeal with the Fair Work Commission after she was fired for being unvaccinated without a valid exemption.Australian Education Union Victorian Branch President Meredith Peace said teachers have always been encouraged to follow vaccination requirements and Covid safety measures. “With the change to these settings, it will be essential that DET ensures all workplaces have updated and implemented their Covid safe plan to meet their obligations to provide a safe workplace for their employees,” she said.“This will provide for appropriate measures and precautions, including recommendations to wear masks, ensuring classrooms are properly ventilated, teaching outside and practising social distancing where practical, as well as encouraging staff to be vaccinated.”

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