BHP, the nation’s biggest mining company, will make the COVID-19 vaccine a condition of entry to its Australian workplaces from January.
After a review of its health protocols and the latest scientific evidence, BHP notified staff on Thursday they must be fully vaccinated by no later than January 31 to access all sites and offices.
“The science is clear that widespread vaccination saves lives,” BHP’s head of Australian mining Edgar Basto said. “In line with government guidance, we recognise the path forward is through widespread vaccination in Australia, and we are looking at a range of practical ways to support that while protecting communities and workforces.”
The move comes after the government of Western Australia, home to BHP’s flagship iron ore mining business, declared earlier this week that all workers across the natural resources sector including exploration, mining, oil and gas, must have had their first COVID-19 jab by January 1 to help protect vulnerable Indigenous communities.
Other Australian companies such as Telstra, fruit and vegetable giant SPC and airlines Qantas and Virgin have also recently confirmed vaccines would be made compulsory for some or all of their workers, and are now in about the rollout of these rules.
BHP’s announcement on Thursday was met with immediate resistance from union officials in Queensland, where the company runs nine metallurgical coal mines.
Stephen Smyth, of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, said it did not support the decision.
“Some of our immediate concerns include fair treatment of casuals and contractors on BHP sites – keeping in mind that a minority of workers on BHP’s Queensland mine sites are direct employees; support for workers with a genuine medical exemption, and paid time for workers to get vaccinated or in case of experiencing vaccine-related side effects,” he said.