August 30, 2021 | By Joyce DiMascio

It is clear that the only opportunity our industry has to reopen is if the community adopts vaccination and reaches the 70 and 80 percent targets that have been set in the Doherty Institute modelling, which has become the basis for Government policy.

Freedom to gather will only be reinstated if vaccination targets are achieved, the rates of transmissions come down and, importantly, if COVIDSafe policies are implemented by the operators of live events and venues.

In recent weeks we have seen the momentum building around employers mandating vaccination for their employees and incentivising clients with rewards.

In the visitor economy, Qantas has come out hard and other operators are steadily joining the pro-vaccination policy movement.

In NSW, the COVID numbers continue to rise and fortunately so too are the numbers of those vaccinated as vaccine supply and distribution is scaled up.

Last week NSW Premier, Gladys Berejiklian announced some minor liberties for those fully vaccinated from September 13, signalling again that vaccination is the way out of lockdowns. She also indicated that the Government was working on including vaccination status on the NSW Government app, making it possible for people to show vaccination status easily.

In our industry, there have been positive messages promoting the jab from all our associations and even some incentives. This should be applauded. But do we need to be more proactive?

Clearly, as our industry exists to bring people together. It’s what we do. So, do we have a fundamental responsibility to lead policy rather than wait for vaccination to be mandated for our sector by Governments?

I put this question to a range of operators across Australia to test our industry’s appetite for adopting a mandatory vaccination policy to help us rebound and create even more safety around events.

My premise was, if you have a duty-of-care to create safe workplaces, and safe events – why not mandate vaccines for those who work in the events industry – and those who want to attend events?

Australians were outraged that an unvaccinated limousine driver was allowed to drive international flight crews and unvaccinated staff had been working in nursing homes with the most vulnerable.

How could employers in our industry across venues, organisers and suppliers think that it would be optional to be vaccinated when working in events or organising and hosting them?

The responses have been illuminating and generally point to an unwillingness to enforce vaccination.

It has been difficult to find any major players in the business events industry who are prepared to make it compulsory for their staff to have the jab.

Instead, there appears to be a preference for “encouraging” people to do the right thing rather than “demand it”, unless mandated by health authorities.

Harry the hirer CEO Gab Robinson said that vaccination has been strongly recommended to the employees of his company.

“We haven’t been sheepish about encouraging our staff to be vaccinated. We’re working hand-in-hand with the staff. Most staff have already been vaccinated,” he said.

“It’s an OH&S issue. We had some staff who were hesitant. When they got the vaccine, it was celebrated. It’s all about teamwork and collaboration. We have achieved the right outcome without having to mandate it.”

Robinson also said that Harry the hirer is working in some environments where it is a health department requirement.

ICC Sydney and Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, which are state government owned, are closely following policies as set down by the state health departments. 

ICC Sydney CEO Geoff Donaghy said,We work closely with the NSW Health Department in following official Gazette Orders. We have no plan to make vaccinations mandatory for our team members, clients or visitors.”

MCEC Chief People Officer Amanda Wilson told micenet: “We strongly encourage our employees, customers and the wider community to be vaccinated against coronavirus (COVID-19), when they become eligible.”

“At this stage, MCEC does not have plans to mandate vaccination but by hosting one of Victoria’s flagship vaccination centres, we are proud to be leading the way in vaccinating our population.

“Victorians need to be vaccinated so we can safely move around our regions, interstate and eventually overseas assisting a faster recovery of our business events industry,” she said.

micenet believes one of the major organisers of trade and consumer expos and conferences will shortly announce a compulsory vaccination policy for all staff and attendees at their events.

The rising vaccination levels across the community are an encouraging sign that people have responded to calls to get vaccinated.

In our sector, should it be mandatory? Do we want to leave ourselves exposed to being the source of outbreaks in the future? Surely not.