Andy Penn & Telstra’s COVID No Jab No Job Trouble Grows As Lawsuit Escalates | No Union Support For Policy

2 min read

 The Australian telecommunications giant, Telstra, faces new problems as the legal action brought against their mandatory vaccination policy now becomes a class action suit. Andy Penn, Telstra CEO, defended the action in September 2021 when the policy was first announced: “More than most other companies our teams stretch across the far reaches of Australia – from our cities to remote outback towns,” Penn said in a staff email. “We are part of these communities and we have an obligation to keep them safe and well – as to protect each other.” Share prices may also be reflecting the company’s legal problems.

The Telstra Corporation Ltd (ASX: TLS) share price could be under pressure in the coming months as it fights new legal action brought on by a former employee.

Former staffer Jodi Wruck, according to The Australian, has filed a case in the Federal Court against the telecommunications giant for its COVID-19 vaccination mandate.

Wruck was fired in December after she refused to be vaccinated, according to court documents.

A Telstra spokesperson declined to comment on specific cases but did confirm to The Motley Fool that staff with regular public contact were required to be inoculated against coronavirus.

“Under Telstra’s COVID vaccination policy, around 8,300 roles in Australia require a COVID vaccination given the increased risk of infection due to the type of work and regular contact with others while on the job,” the spokesperson said.

“This includes those who regularly interact with customers and other members of the public, those who work with vulnerable people and communities, and those who need to be onsite, such as our E000 contact centres.”

The spokesperson added that state and territory public health orders also required those performing essential telco work to be vaccinated.

Telstra shares dipped 0.77% to trade at $3.89 on Thursday afternoon.

Denied consultation on vaccinations?

Wruck is claiming that “at least seven” staff members have signed on as plaintiffs, reaching the legal minimum to be classified as a class action.

The group is claiming that Telstra employees were not consulted and denied a chance to discuss with their doctors as to whether they should receive any COVID-19 vaccine.

The company spokesperson refuted that there was no discussion.

“We undertook extensive consultation before we introduced our vaccination policy, including extending the period for consultation and making changes to our policy approach based on constructive feedback from our employees and unions,” said the spokesperson.

“Since introducing our vaccination policy in September 2021 we’ve had a very small number of people who have decided not to get vaccinated.”

The legal action is seeking orders to stop Telstra from enforcing its COVID-19 vaccine mandate and for the plaintiffs to receive damages.

Wruck’s case claims her former employer also violated anti-discrimination laws because her advocacy for “freedom of choice” about “what to put in her body” was a “political belief”.

Telstra maintains that “the vast majority” of staffers have been supportive of the vaccination rules.

“We’ve so far given away the equivalent of $5m worth of incentives to over 20,000 employees who are fully vaccinated,” said the telco’s spokesperson.

“We remain confident the right approach has been taken to protect our employees and customers, and is consistent with recent legal decisions regarding vaccination.”

Via this site.

Union Reaction

The CEPU made this statement on their website regarding Telstra’s mandatory vaccination employee policy: “The Union broadly opposes this policy on the basis that it does not align with the Federal Government’s public health position – that the vaccination is free of cost and is voluntary for each Australian. We believe if mandates are going to be introduced, they should be introduced by government health authorities based on a thorough public health risk analysis.”

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