Trade union takes UFS to court

Solidarity says it will mount legal challenges against several other mandatory Covid-19 vaccination policies.

Trade union Solidarity has served court papers on the University of the Free State (UFS) with regard to this university’s mandatory Covid-19 vaccination policy for students and employees.

The 140,000-member union also announced its plans to file several other court cases regarding mandatory vaccinations in the workplace. According to Solidarity, its first case against Small Enterprise Employers of South Africa (SEESA) will be heard in the Labour Court in Johannesburg on 27 January.

Dirk Hermann, Solidarity CEO said, “At the moment, the South African labour market is faced with huge uncertainty regarding whether employers may compel their employees, or even universities their students, to get vaccinated. As a result, we see dozens of employers exploiting this uncertainty and using it as an excuse to lay off employees without following the correct procedures.

“This situation is exacerbated by our government, which consistently refuses to give clear direction in this regard. Meanwhile, we are seeing employees’ rights and livelihoods being threatened throughout South Africa. It cannot continue like this. We must obtain legal certainty,” he added.

Solidarity explained that in the last month, it had received more than 300 inquiries from its members regarding the legality of mandatory vaccination.

According to the union, any form of “blanket approach” that does not take into account the unique situation of individual employees or students will be illegal and also undesirable.

Companies that are reported to have implemented mandatory vaccination policies include Discovery, Sanlam, Curro and MTN, among others,

Dirk said, “There is a huge danger in a system where the government or other institutions can make vaccinations mandatory, thereby restricting people’s rights. No state should have such power – especially not one that already has violated the trust of so many of its people.”

He added, “On a practical note, we also see that compulsion is detrimental to a long-term vaccination programme. It creates resistance, and it damages trust and relationships. International trends also show that countries with successful vaccination programmes did not make vaccinations mandatory, especially not in the workplace. South Africans have been kept in the dark far too long. The uncertainty is hurting our economy and our state of mind. Drastic action must be taken.”