Staff forced out of racing after refusing COVID-19 vaccine

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On the eve of the Caulfield Cup, Peter Moody – the trainer of race favourite Incentivise – is saying farewell to three of his staff who have chosen not to get vaccinated.

But they’re not alone. A group of at least 35 will be out of a job by the end of the week when Racing Victoria’s mandatory vaccination policy comes into effect this Saturday.

Last month, Racing Victoria announced that it would require all stable staff and licensed participants to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of entry to workplaces around the state.

As part of the policy, Racing Victoria said that by Caulfield Cup day, no racing participant would be allowed entry onto a racecourse or licensed racing venue unless they had received their first jab. Participants will need to have their second jab by November 27.

The decision came on the back of advice from Racing Victoria’s chief medical officer, and was backed by a survey of 1590 racing participants, of which only 8 per cent signalled their initial desire not to get vaccinated. The majority favoured a mandatory vaccination policy.

Anthony Peart is one industry member who will work his last day, for a horse breaker and pre-trainer near Geelong, on Friday. Peart is a member of the group of 35 who wrote to Racing Victoria in opposition to the new policy more than a fortnight ago. They say they haven’t heard back.

“There’s another girl that I work with that’s the same, she’s not included in that number [of 35],” Peart said.

Peart said he’s not against all vaccines, but believes there’s not enough evidence about the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines to encourage him to get jabbed.

The federal government says COVID-19 vaccinations are safe and save lives, and they are being closely monitored in the largest global vaccine rollout in history. In Australia the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) monitors vaccine safety and side effects.

Peart said: “There isn’t [a future for me] at the moment. It sounds like if you’re an authorised worker, you’ve got to get vaccinated,” Peart said.

“I’ve applied for three jobs, only heard back from one, but the first thing they ask is, ‘are you vaccinated?’ It’s going to be quite awkward to find a job, I’m thinking.”

Moody said it had been an emotional week at his stable ahead of one of the biggest days on the racing calendar.

“It’s disappointing the way things have panned out, but no one would be rooting harder for the horse than those three, I can assure you,” the champion trainer said.

“They’ve all got tears in their eyes, and they’re very sad to leave. They’ve looked at every avenue possible not to.

“That’s very disappointing for the whole stable. They’re well liked.

“Two of them are in senior positions in the stable and, I won’t name them, but it’s a sad thing for the stable that we’re going to lose three staff on the weekend because they’ve made that choice.

“Everyone else here is fully supportive of them for making that choice, and it’s very disappointing they’ve got to lose their employment in an industry that they all genuinely love for the fact they’ve made this personal choice not to get vaccinated.”

Mike Moroney also has three staff members leaving at the end of this week. He fears they’ll be lost to Racing NSW, where they have not imposed a mandatory vaccination policy.

Other stables have also had staff who were against getting the vaccine, but have gone and got vaccinated to remain in a job.

Flemington trainer Troy Corstens believes that is the only way forward, not only for racing but the entire community.

“Not getting vaccinated is their choice, but I cannot see another way around getting out of the position that Victoria is in at the moment without everybody getting vaccinated,” he said.

“We’re just horse trainers. We shouldn’t be needing to make decisions like this. It’s hard putting us in this position, but I can’t see any way out of it.”

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