Universities

Two universities revoke vaccination mandates, while others consult on rules

New Zealand universities are deliberating whether unvaccinated students and staff will interact on campus as terms end for much of the education sector.

Two universities in Auckland have revoked vaccination mandates for staff and students, while many other vice-chancellors and senior leaders across the country are investigating staff.

Early years and schools staff will not need to be vaccinated from 11:59 p.m. Monday – but it is up to each university to decide its own tenure rules.

“The number of people who lost their jobs in our industry was quite low,” said Tertiary Education Union (TEU) National President Tina Smith.

Two universities in Auckland have revoked vaccination mandates for staff and students.  (File photo)

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Two universities in Auckland have revoked vaccination mandates for staff and students. (File photo)

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Only 10 tertiary staff who approached the TEU lost their jobs due to the warrants, and another 50 unvaccinated staff retained their jobs but were placed on unpaid leave, telecommuting or project leave.

Some of them have already been approached to return to work, Smith said, but that’s not guaranteed.

“[Workplace Relations and Safety] Minister [Michael] Wood has now publicly stated that people who lost their jobs because of the warrants do not automatically get their jobs back,” Smith said.

Fourteen University of Otago staff have lost their jobs as a result of the vaccination mandates - the policy will remain in place for students and staff until at least the mid-term break.

Hamish McNeilly / Stuff

Fourteen University of Otago staff have lost their jobs as a result of the vaccination mandates – the policy will remain in place for students and staff until at least the mid-term break.

At the University of Otago, 14 staff lost their jobs due to the mandate and a few who were not vaccinated continued to work from home. Nine University of Waikato staff also lost their jobs and five other staff were given alternative options, while AUT forced three staff to resign.

With AUT, the University of Auckland has already revoked its vaccine requirements – at the University of Auckland, students and staff will not need an up-to-date vaccine pass, unless they are taking practical courses in health or care of the elderly, or the staff are working on Covid-19 research in the laboratories.

No staff at the University of Auckland lost their jobs, largely because the university opted to provide online-only education for the start of term, a spokesperson said. That would mean all unvaccinated students and staff would return to college in some form, she said.

University of Waikato Vice-Chancellor Professor Neil Quigley said the university would make a decision on its vaccine needs for staff and students around May.

MARK TAYLOR/Stuff

University of Waikato Vice-Chancellor Professor Neil Quigley said the university would make a decision on its vaccine needs for staff and students around May.

The universities of Otago, Waikato and Victoria are consulting with staff and students on vaccination mandates. The mandates remain in place and a decision will not be made until after Easter at the University of Otago, and in May for the University of Waikato.

It is unclear whether unvaccinated staff here will return to face-to-face work on campus. University of Otago Vice-Chancellor Professor David Murdoch said the decision depended on the level of the Covid-19 protection framework the country was in.

The University of Canterbury and Massey University are also reviewing their rules, but did not respond to questions about returning unvaccinated staff to work, or whether the universities are consulting with staff and students.

Dr Dougal McNeill, a senior lecturer in English at Te Herenga-Waka Victoria University in Wellington, says staff must see 'compelling reasons' for a vaccine mandate to be dropped.

David White / Stuff

Dr Dougal McNeill, a senior lecturer in English at Te Herenga-Waka Victoria University in Wellington, says staff must see ‘compelling reasons’ for a vaccine mandate to be dropped.

Smith said immunocompromised staff felt vulnerable and universities should conduct thorough health and safety assessments before making decisions.

“Most importantly, universities need to talk to their staff, because they are the ones who interact with their students on a daily basis, and it is the staff who need to feel safe in their workplace.

Te Herenga-Waka Victoria University of Wellington, English Lecturer and TEU Branch President Dougal McNeill agreed.

Omicron still posed a threat, he said.

“We believe this provides protection for students and staff, and we would need to see a compelling case for [the mandates] be dumped. »

Victoria of Wellington Students’ Association president Ralph Zambrano said the 48-hour consultation, conducted from Tuesday to Friday last week, was too rushed.

“We know there are students eager to return, but we need to strike the right balance to ensure that we care for the communities that would be disproportionately impacted by an outbreak on campus.”