Concerns have been raised in response to a CSIRO management plan to survey the COVID-19 vaccination status of staff in Victoria and collect vaccination certificates for employees co-located with Monash University in Clayton.
Executive Director Katherine Paroz unveiled the surprise moves in an email to all CSIRO staff in Victoria, at the same time announcing a Situation Management Team (SMT) is review of return to sites plans and hinting at further changes, “including alignment with the Victorian Government’s roadmap.”
CSIRO Staff Association Acting Secretary Susan Tonks said the union was concerned at the absence of employee advice or consultation.
“We are concerned that CSIRO Executive is taking steps to gather employee information on vaccination status without providing employees the appropriate guidance or transparency required by privacy law and have sought an urgent meeting to commence a genuine consultation process.”
Ms Paroz said the vaccination status survey would help the SMT “better understand how many of our people are vaccinated, and any barriers you might be facing,” stating that the activity would be voluntary and anonymous.
However, Ms Tonks said that according to recent advice from the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC), the collection of information on employee vaccination status “is considered sensitive health information under the Privacy Act and higher privacy protections apply.”
The recent decision by Monash University to require all staff, students and visitors to be fully vaccinated against coronavirus will impact some CSIRO staff co-located in Clayton.
“CSIRO is a tenant of Monash University at the New Horizons building and the Australian Stem Cell Centre. As such, the requirement to be fully vaccinated will apply to our employees who work on site at these locations… in order to work on a Monash site, you will be required to upload your vaccination certificate to the Learning Management System before 5 November,” Ms Paroz said.
“The CSIRO Staff Association supports vaccination for protection against COVID-19 and we recognise that disclosure of vaccination status is a challenging and evolving workplace issue,” Ms Tonks said.
“But the Staff Association needs to make sure our members are fully informed of their rights and obligations surrounding disclosure sensitive health information under these circumstances.”
“The advice from the OAIC sets out significant obligations for employers seeking to collect this sensitive medical information and it’s not immediately clear, especially given the lack of consultation, whether these new processes are best-practice.”
Ms Tonks said that the Staff Association would seek an urgent meeting with CSIRO Executive to “commence genuine consultation on the issue of collection of information on the vaccination status of CSIRO workers.”