Farm Weekly 9 Dec 21

From the new year, all 3700 CBH Group grower members will be unable to enter a CBH Group site to deliver grain, unless they have had their first COVID-19 vaccination.

The Horse of Famine

The compulsory vaccination was announced by the co-operative last week and stipulates that all CBH employees, growers, contractors and visitors will need to have received their first COVID-19 jab by December 31 and be fully vaccinated by January 31 in order to enter a CBH site or office.

The announcement was made after extensive consultation by CBH with the State government about its mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy for Western Australian workforces.

CBH acting chief executive officer Ben Macnamara said for growers and those who were undertaking the freight and logistics task, the responsibility to get vaccinated resided with them.

“Our responsibility is with our employees and our contractors – we will be capturing information through their COVID certification, so our employees will download that through MyGov and we will store that safely,” Mr Macnamra said.

“Growers or drivers will see signage which will set out the requirement for them to have had the vaccination before they come onsite, however under our understanding it is up to the government authorities to police that.”

CBH expects the guidance on exactly how the policing will work to become clearer after the State government releases its directions, which is expected mid-December.

Under those directions, mandatory vaccination will become law as part of the public health act.

What is known is that from December 31, CBH sites will be considered what the government refers to as a ‘premise’ and under that, the penalty for entering a premise without the jab is quite significant – $100,000 per incident.

With the requirement coming into effect at the end of the year, it’s being brought in at a time when growers are expected to still be in the middle of harvesting what is expected to be WA’s biggest ever crop.

Mr Macnamara said while no time was ever going to be perfect, ultimately to keep the supply chain open they needed people to be vaccinated.

“While we have a very large harvest and we expect there will still be some grain flowing in then, it will be mostly in the southern third of the State, particularly in the Albany zone,” he said.

“We believe having a fully vaccinated workforce will not only help us to contribute to the ongoing health and safety of our employees and of the communities that we operate in, but critically it will also put us in the best possible position to continue to operate the WA grain supply chain in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak.

“We have strongly encouraged our people to get vaccinated to provide them with enough time to get the jab and we will continue to encourage people to do that all the way through to December 31.”

While the CBH lead team and board are all already double vaxed, the co-operative did offer a $100 incentive to its own employees and contract harvest workforce, to be fully vaccinated by December 15.

While no statistics have been provided around the uptake of that incentive, Mr Macnamara said the co-operative was no different to any other organisation throughout WA and the co-op had witnessed some vaccine hesitancy.

“That is mostly based on a lack of medical information, so in response to that, we’ve got a medical expert who will answer any questions for our people and then it’s up to them to make that determination on whether they will get vaccinated or not,” he said.

“Across the State roughly 75 per cent of people have been vaccinated so far and I expect regional Western Australia is similar or slightly below that.

“From my understanding there are lots of vaccination centres throughout the Wheatbelt, so growers, deliverers and drivers will be able to work their way through getting those vaccinations.”

CBH has also started to explore the idea of hosting mobile vaccination clinics at receival sites, or even having GPs travelling on the roads, to help farmers to get their jab.