Canned food giant SPC has been cleared by Victoria’s work safety regulator of not properly consulting staff on its COVID-19 vaccination mandate.
In early August, SPC became the first non-health-related business in Australia to announce a vaccine mandate for staff.
The move attracted criticism from the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union, which claimed staff were not properly consulted about the plans.
WorkSafe Victoria investigated the concerns but found the food processor did not breach occupational health and safety legislation and regulations.
SPC has declared the outcome, confirmed by the regulator on Tuesday, a victory for all Australian businesses implementing COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
The Victorian government last week announced it would make coronavirus vaccination compulsory for more than a million authorised workers across the state.
It means authorised workers must have their first jab by October 15 to keep working on site, and be fully vaccinated by November 26.
SPC has welcomed the expanded mandate, which effectively supersedes its previous deadlines for staff.
“The only path forward for our country is through vaccination as lockdowns begin to lift and our economy can finally start to reopen,” the company said.
WorkSafe recently inspected SPC’s Shepparton facility amid an outbreak that locked down the town and its surrounds, and led to a shortage of staff on site.
“Up to 70 per cent of our workforce and 30 per cent of the Shepparton community were in isolation at the time,” chief executive Robert Giles said in statement.
“It’s shameful that while our local resources were stretched … that someone, most likely within the AMWU, sought fit to test us on a technicality rather than supporting our efforts.”
The AMWU has been contacted for comment.
SPC, based in Victoria’s Goulburn Valley, is Australia’s major producer of packaged fruit, and its brands include Ardmona, Goulburn Valley, SPC, ProVital, Kuisine and PomLife.