Fonterra has tweaked its Covid-19 vaccine mandate policy to allow unvaccinated employees to continue working through a daily testing programme.
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KELLY HODEL/STUFF Fonterra employees, who remain unvaccinated on April 1, will be subject to a daily testing programme.

The dairy giant’s Covid vaccine requirements for employees, about 10,000 nationwide, and contractors, was to come into effect on April 1, 2022, requiring all roles at its workplaces to be performed by fully vaccinated people.

However, the company said on Wednesday, it had adapted “our approach to those employees who remain unvaccinated on April 1, 2022’’.

This means a “reasonable alternative” to termination is offered to unvaccinated employees, where they can commit to a daily testing programme, a Fonterra spokesperson said.

“We currently consider participating in a daily testing programme to be reasonable during this phase of the pandemic while Omicron is the dominant variant.”

The vaccine mandate policy proposal for Fonterra workers was open for consultation in December 2021 after a risk assessment was undertaken.

Fonterra workers at the Clandeboye Dairy Processing Plant protest against the proposed vaccine mandate on January 5.
ESTHER ASHBY-COVENTRY/STUFF Fonterra workers at the Clandeboye Dairy Processing Plant protest against the proposed vaccine mandate on January 5.

“Like all aspects of our approach to Covid-19, these vaccine requirements are subject to regular review,” a Fonterra spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said the company had made the decision by taking on board the latest health advice, understanding the risk Omicron poses, the vaccination levels within its New Zealand workforce, and the wide availability of rapid antigen tests (RATs).

“While this is our current position, the emergence of new variants and new information is likely to trigger further reviews of our vaccine requirements and that could mean new measures for those employees who choose to remain unvaccinated,’’ the spokesperson said.

“Throughout the pandemic, we’ve adapted our response to Covid-19 as the situation changes.”

They said the company had high rates of vaccination among its New Zealand workforce and this, along with other control measures, has kept people and operations as safe as possible over the past two years.

The spokesperson also confirmed the vaccination rate across its workforce is in line with New Zealand’s vaccination rate.

Fonterra Clandeboye dairy factory employee Lorraine Pike holds a placard at the protest against a proposed vaccine mandate on January 5.
ESTHER ASHBY-COVENTRY/STUFF Fonterra Clandeboye dairy factory employee Lorraine Pike holds a placard at the protest against a proposed vaccine mandate on January 5.

In January, dairy processing workers at Fonterra’s Clandeboye plant, which employees 1100, protested against the company’s proposed vaccine mandate outside the factory near Temuka.

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

The moods of many dairy producers have been boosted by the first quarter performance of their dairy. With significantly higher milk check prices year-over-year, most dairies are making profitable margins according to Trent Dado, independent dairy nutrition and management consultant with GPS Consulting.

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