Woolworths, Coles mandate COVID-19 vaccines for staff

Supermarket giant Woolworths will make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for all of its 170,000 staff, while fierce rival Coles is taking a similar path in the larger states as they join the growing ranks of large companies to take a harder line on the issue as restrictions in Australia ease.

The Woolworths mandate will apply to staff working in the company’s 1200 retail outlets across supermarkets and Big W discount department stores, those working in the group’s large warehousing and distribution centres and office support staff.

The company said it intends making the full vaccination requirement deadline January 31 in NSW, Victoria, the ACT, Northern Territory and Western Australia.

Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania will have a deadline of March 31, 2022. Woolworths joins other big companies including Qantas, Virgin, Telstra, BHP, Westpac and the Commonwealth Bank to make vaccinations mandatory.

Chief executive Brad Banducci said the company had an obligation to make its workplace as safe as possible as Australia shifted to the next phase of the pandemic and various states removed COVID-19 restrictions.

“We have a clear obligation to provide our team members with the safest possible work environment as we supply the food and essential needs our communities rely on,” he said.

Coles Group, which employs about 120,000 people and runs 837 supermarkets, said on Thursday it would make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for any staff member in supermarkets, distribution centres or other sites in New South Wales, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory. State government health orders in the Northern Territory and Western Australia mean vaccinations are also mandatory for supermarket workers in those states.

But Coles isn’t making vaccinations compulsory at this point in Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania.

Coles chief executive Steven Cain said the group was working hand-in-hand with health authorities to keep staff and millions of customers safe.

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