Zimbabwean employers tighten screws on unvaccinated workers as COVID-19 takes toll

COVID-19 vaccine
COVID-19 vaccine

A number of Zimbabwean employers — both in the public and private sectors — are slowly tightening the grip on unvaccinated employees whom they fear will be a danger to those who have already been vaccinated against COVID-19.

As more and more Zimbabweans come forward to be vaccinated, there are still many others who are shunning the vaccines for various reasons, including religious, medical, cultural ones and sheer fear of the unknown.

More and more employers are adamant that unvaccinated staff should stay away from the workplace for as long as they are not vaccinated.

The government has already banned unvaccinated employees from boarding its staff buses amid speculation that they will soon be barred from coming to work entirely.

Top agricultural seed producer Seed Co. on Tuesday said that it had procured 10,000 doses of vaccines for staff and key stakeholders and said there would be no excuse for any employee to remain unvaccinated “as we thrive to create a COVID-19 free workplace.”

“While it is recognized that the individual has a right to choose not being vaccinated, the company will exercise its right to protect vaccinated staff by barring entry of all unvaccinated employees and others into the Seed Co. buses and premises,” read a memo from regional managing director Edworks Mhandu to staff.

He said the company would send all unvaccinated employees on leave and would request to see COVID-19 vaccination certificates or negative PCR certificates taken within 24 hours whenever they come to the factory. The employees would also bear the costs of the tests.

A PCR test costs about 60 U.S. dollars on average in Zimbabwe, and many employees will definitely not afford to take two or three tests a week.

Top financial institution CBZ Holdings has requested all its employees to submit vaccination certificates or exemption applications by Aug. 1.
It said it recognized that vaccination was a choice and would, therefore, open up an exemption register for all staff who would not be taking up the vaccinations for religious, medical, personal or other reasons.

“We further instruct that all staff who lodge an application for exemption, shall, with effect from Aug. 1, 2021, be required, as a condition of employment, to have a certificate confirming a negative PCR result from a laboratory registered by the Ministry of Health and Child Care, which is no more than 72 hours old, ” said a memo from chief human resources officer Nyasha Mutsai. “The PCR certificate is to be presented to the relevant line manager, branch manager or supervisor prior to entering any CBZ Holdings premises or CBZ Bank branch to undertake any visits, work, meetings, business, and/or any transactions.”

Several state entities have also instructed their employees to get vaccinated, arguing that they are frontline staff who may infect clients.

The country’s umbrella labor body — the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions — has alleged discrimination in the practice by the companies and state entities forcing their employees to be vaccinated.

Thabani Mpofu, a lawyer, however, cautioned those who were not willing to take up the vaccines that they could lose their jobs in due course.

“An employment relationship is not static but responds to conditions affecting the employer’s enterprise,” said the lawyer on Twitter. “This principle will affect many employees and might result in massive job losses. There are binding requirements not explicitly stated in your employment contract. Vaccinate.”

As of Wednesday night, 1,562,285 people have received their first doses while 713,131 have completed the course in Zimbabwe, with the majority of them taking either the Sinopharm or Sinovac vaccines from China. Others have taken Covaxin from India and Sputnik V from Russia.

The government this week approved the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for emergency use, making it the fifth vaccine with approval to fight against COVID-19 in the country.

The country has recorded 103,567 COVID-19 cases and 3,340 related deaths so far. Enditem

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