The ongoing vaccine mandate for firefighters has been catastrophic to their response capacity across New Zealand, with the Professional Firefighters Union acknowledging that firefighter numbers are now at crisis point.
A recent OIA showed that as at 11 April 2022 more than 1,000 Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) staff had either not received the covid-19 jab or were overdue for a booster.
As well as numerous stations being understaffed, there is at least one station on the West Coast that has been entirely unable to respond to emergencies due to the mandate. The result of this is more communities at risk and longer response times in an emergency.
Most New Zealanders are not aware that FENZ staff are still subject to a vaccine mandate and will lose their jobs if they refuse to maintain covid-19 boosters.
This is caused by FENZ classifying them as “healthcare workers” due to their requirement to respond to critical events where they are within 2m of a “healthcare practitioner”.
Given that covid-19 is now prevalent throughout the community and that many other close contact professions are not mandated, there are clear inconsistencies in the logic behind this.
The FENZ staff affected by the vaccine mandate have now joined with Police and Defence as part of United We Stand.
This has been welcomed by the Defence and Police Staff that have been fighting the same battle within their organisations. The affected FENZ staff are motivated to push back against this harmful mandate that not only unjustifiably breaches their human rights but also creates risk to other New Zealanders through lack of emergency response coverage.
A legal challenge is now being initiated in order to bring this situation before the courts.