The Ministry of Social Development (MSD) is not withdrawing termination notices to hundreds of unvaccinated staff despite the Prime Minister announcing that the vaccination mandate is to end.
WTF is that about?
The latest twist in the MSD vaccine policy mandate saga: despite the removal of vax passes and legislatively ordered mandate for most sectors by 4 April 2022, notices of termination to staff who are not fully vaccinated, pregnant, or who have not agreed to get novovax by a certain date, then it’s “no jab no job”.
For most staff, their final day is 8 April 2022, while some, after months of stressful working conditions and uncertainty as to their future employment, have already left and taken pay in lieu of notice.
The Ministry of Social Development, the Ministry responsible for caring for New Zealand’s most vulnerable citizens (insert tongue in cheek here), was never subject to a legislated mandate order. But like most Government departments and Ministries, they decided to gerrymander to their over-reaching Minister anyway.
The MSD vaccine policy comes courtesy of nine, unelected officials who call themselves the Leadership Team.
MSD began calling staff on Monday 7 March 2022 advising that final notices of termination would be issued in the coming days, in contravention of advice issued by the Public Service Commission on Friday 4 March 2022 to re-think the risk assessment and get legal advice before proceeding with any planned terminations.
The MSD Staff Group opposing the terminations filed an urgent injunction to the Employment Relations Authority seeking a ruling that MSD withdraw the termination notices, together with other claims. Among their arguments was that the risk assessment on which the policy was based was faulty.
In addition to failing to consult with the affected group on the risk assessment, MSD placed all 9,200 staff into two groups – front line staff and office staff. No analysis of individual roles or sites was undertaken.
The injunction also seeks to remedy that MSD has not “exhausted all reasonable options” in relation to staff before proceeding to termination.
The primary option sought by the applicants and other staff is that they be allowed to work from home for 3-6 months while we see what happens with the pandemic. MSD refused on the basis that it would not allow “open-ended work from home arrangements because no one could predict how long the pandemic would last”.
This mandate also applied to staff who had only ever worked from home.
MSD action so far in response to the injunction indicated they will be fighting it on every legal and administrative point. (Editor: Well, good for them! Nothing like a bit of hubris to argue your point!)
One has to wonder why, when all other government departments paused their terminations and policies following the PSC’s advice that MSD continues to march forward to argue their right to fire unvaccinated staff.
The MSD Staff Group, consisting of around 250 employees, has made extensive efforts to consult with the “Leadership Team” in good faith through submissions since late November 2021, requesting information and seeking to have input in to subsequent risk assessments. However, MSD has consistently stated “consultation is closed” after the initial consultation period of seven business days.
Although the MSD group managed to put in a detailed submission within the truncated ‘consultation’ period, MSD never replied to the issues and questions raised in it, and has consistently stonewalled, delayed, and denied affected staff access to information that adversely affected their employment which is in direct contravention of the law, by the way.
There has been an absence of good faith – the cornerstone of any employment relationship – in their dealings with staff. We’d go as far as to say the “Leadership Team” have acted unconscionably and amorally, creating processes for appearances sake, while always intending to enforce a vaccinate or terminate position.
Thirty-nine applicants are joined as parties to the proceedings, but the expectation is that a win for one is a win for all MSD staff, including those who have taken pay in lieu, as well as all persons affected by employer-mandated vaccination policies.
Dates for the hearing are expected to be announced next week and it is critical MSD do not try to delay the process because once terminations become effective, the group would be required to re-file on the grounds of reinstatement, incurring further costs and delays to staff reliant on the income to feed their families.
Meanwhile, wait times for MSD clients are consistently between 70 and 150 minutes, because MSD is drastically understaffed, while Covid runs rampant among the vaccinated workforce. Does the irony never end in today’s government environment? (Editor: Yes, that’s rhetorical.)
NOTE: Resistance Kiwi is accepting donations to the MSD Staff Group’s legal funds to fight their Government Employer. Our account number is
Please put “MSDLegal” in the Reference field, and we’ll get it direct to the worker’s legal fund. Thank you!