Dairy processing workers at Fonterra’s Clandeboye plant have protested against the company’s proposed vaccine mandate outside the factory near Temuka.
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ESTHER ASHBY-COVENTRY/STUFF Clandeboye Fonterra dairy processing plant employee Lorraine Pike holds a placard at the protest against a proposed vaccine mandate.

About 40 protesters stood with placards and posters along the entrance road leading into the factory on Wednesday afternoon. About half were members of the activist group Voices for Freedom who were supporting the workers.

The proposal for a vaccine mandate policy for Fonterra workers was open for consultation in December 2021 after a risk assessment was undertaken. The decision on the proposal has not been made yet as feedback is still being analysed but if it goes ahead it will be from March 1.

Fonterra employee Ben Thomas said he was protesting because if he was not fully vaccinated he would likely lose his job and he did not think that was fair.

“We are waiting for the final verdict.”

He said he had never had any vaccinations including childhood immunisations and did not believe the Covid-19 vaccination had been fully tested.

“I should have a choice of what I put in my body,” Thomas said.

Fonterra workers at the Clandeboye dairy processing plant protest against the company’s proposed vaccine mandate on Wednesday afternoon.
ESTHER ASHBY-COVENTRY/STUFF Fonterra workers at the Clandeboye dairy processing plant protest against the company’s proposed vaccine mandate on Wednesday afternoon.

Fellow employee and protester Lorraine Pike said she was surprised they were putting pressure on staff.

“It’s a great place to work, and they’re so strong on health and safety. They look after their people so it [the mandate] is surprising and disappointing.”

Fonterra workers at Clandeboye dairy processing plant Gail Lawson, left and Shirley Gould, protest the company’s proposed vaccine mandate on Wednesday afternoon.
ESTHER ASHBY-COVENTRY/STUFF Fonterra workers at Clandeboye dairy processing plant Gail Lawson, left and Shirley Gould, protest the company’s proposed vaccine mandate on Wednesday afternoon.

Stuart Laing who has worked for the company for 31 years said he would be unhappy to lose his job but had an issue with the lack of informed consent.

“This is coercion.”

Fonterra Clandeboye Dairy Processing plant employee Chris Howey, second from right stands with Voice for Freedom members and independent Ashburton anti-vax activist Jane Slaven, fourth from left at the protest against a proposed vaccine mandate on Wednesday.
ESTHER ASHBY-COVENTRY/STUFF Fonterra Clandeboye Dairy Processing plant employee Chris Howey, second from right stands with Voice for Freedom members and independent Ashburton anti-vax activist Jane Slaven, fourth from left at the protest against a proposed vaccine mandate on Wednesday.

Another, who did not want to be named, said the employees were good enough to work through lockdowns and they were not vaxxed but were now being dropped like “hot spuds”.

“It feels like a kick in the guts especially when you have dependants.”

Employee and protester Steve Tucker said it was important to stand up for what people believed to be true and claimed the mandate proposal was based on flawed assumptions of an uncontrolled situation. He said during the lockdowns everyone had extra PPE and anyone entering the site had to have their temperature monitored he did not see why that could not continue.

“It’s [the mandate] causing segregation and division. It’s undermining people’s rights to bodily autonomy.”

Bruce Mitchell of Voices for Freedom supports the protest against Fonterra’s proposed vaccine mandate outside the Clandeboye factory.
ESTHER ASHBY-COVENTRY/STUFF Bruce Mitchell of Voices for Freedom supports the protest against Fonterra’s proposed vaccine mandate outside the Clandeboye factory.

Fonterra director NZ Manufacturing Alan Van Der Nagel said they had been consulting employees on the proposal to require all roles in New Zealand to be carried out by people who are fully vaccinated.

He said the consultation period ended on December 27, 2021.

“We are now working through the feedback submitted during the consultation period. No decisions on the proposal have been made.”

Van Der Nagel confirmed if the policy was introduced it would be implemented from March 1, 2022.

“All roles across all Fonterra’s New Zealand sites would need to be performed by a vaccinated person.”

The Dairy Workers Union was contacted for comment.

Dairy farmers can do more together than individually.

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