Monash Health has been given the green light to take disciplinary action, including firing nurses who are not vaccinated against COVID-19.
About 90 nurses tried to block the planned action in federal court on Wednesday, arguing they had the right to be consulted on Monash Health’s mandatory vaccination directive.
They sought an urgent injunction to end disciplinary action before the whole case could be tried, but this was denied by Judge John Snaden, who found their legal record weak at best.
As of October 15, all Victorian healthcare workers must provide their employer with proof that they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, that they had an appointment to receive a first dose by October 29, or that they have a medical exemption.
Monash Health also imposed the directive, with disciplinary action, including dismissal, applicable to those who did not comply.
But nurses say they have the right to be consulted on the workplace directive – including the opportunity to voice their opinions and have those opinions taken into account.
Their lawyer Nick Ferrett QC said Monash Health could and should have sought to find out what their concerns were and whether it was possible to overcome them so that people would get vaccinated and be allowed to continue working.
He said if Monash Health had the resources to interview all of those employees for disciplinary reasons, which he said would happen, it’s hard to think they wouldn’t have the resources for a consultation.
Judge Snaden said Monash Health denied being forced to consult.
He said more significantly that their lawyer Chris O’Grady QC had pointed out that the disciplinary process would be initiated only because the employees did not comply with the binding instruction.
“The course that has been mapped has been mapped because Monash Health has felt that the public health guidelines, by which it is bound, do not allow anything else,” Judge Snaden said.
He concluded that disciplinary action and a likely dismissal would have a significant impact on likely all employees, but felt that, given the weakness of their record, this was not sufficient to grant the relief they were seeking.
Previously, he had noted that if their case was successful at trial, they could seek reinstatement and be compensated for the period during which they had been wrongfully dismissed.
The complete case will be scheduled for trial before another judge at a later date.
Australian Associated Press