A poll produced by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) last week found that almost one in seven companies surveyed had introduced a “no jab, no job” policy.
Alongside this the government is assessing plans that would legally require all care workers to be vaccinated.
This would affect around 1.5 million care workers and could also be introduced to frontline health workers. This will inevitably mean some workers being sacked.
Barchester health company insists its care staff are vaccinated.
Management said If workers “refuse on non-medical grounds they will, by reason of their own decision, make themselves unavailable for work.”
Employers want to shift the blame for Covid-19 outbreaks from their own actions and inactions.
Instead they want to suggest that workers are individually responsible for any problems.
Trade unions have rightly voiced opposition. Unison union general secretary Christina McAnea said the plans “will do nothing to help health and care sectors that are already chronically understaffed.”
The TUC says this approach is counterproductive and potentially discriminatory.
It could be used to penalise pregnant women.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said, “Getting everyone vaccinated as quickly as we can is the best way to make sure our workplaces are safe, to protect care home residents, and to open up our economy again.
“But forcing workers to get vaccinated isn’t the right way to do this.”
Winning all workers to want to be vaccinated is critically important.
This is in their own interest and in the interest of wider society.
But the focus should be on persuasion, education and participation.
It’s important to recognise that there are many reasons people may be hesitant to be vaccinated.
Some don’t trust a government that has presided over an official toll of 130,000 deaths.
It has lied about so many other things, so it’s not surprising some people think it is capable of lies about the vaccine.
Many undocumented migrants will fear that if they come forward for the vaccine that their records might be later used to arrest and deport them.
There is also a low take-up among some sections of black and Asian groups.
There is a legacy of black people being used for medical experimentation.
And the NHS is not free from institutional racism.
But there are obvious measures that could win more workers to have the vaccine.
One is to make the process simpler and free it from worries about losing pay.
Last week’s TUC report said that 55 percent of companies surveyed aren’t giving staff paid time off to get vaccinated.
The TUC is calling on all employers to offer paid time off to receive the vaccine.
Black and Asian people themselves should be involved in the vaccine rollout process.
This would allow wider and specific education to be easily accessible.
This could be backed up by services in workplaces such as care homes.
Workers could ask questions about the vaccine and hear refutations of the myths surrounding it.
In any case, even 100 percent vaccination in a workplace cannot be an excuse to dismantle workplace safety measures.
Vaccines don’t protect everyone who has them. And coronavirus is constantly mutating.
Forcing people to get vaccinated through the threat of unemployment is the worst way to tackle fear.
And taking jobs away from those people who refuse the jab will only increase the potential for more anti-vaccination anger.