Some businesses look to the black market to continue trading and avoid vaccine mandate

JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/STUFF
The traffic light system came into force across New Zealand on Friday, December 3, to differing responses (first published December 4).

In Kaeo, a small Far North town of just 1000 people, the only hairdresser closed for good at 11.59pm on Thursday, when the country shifted to the new traffic light system.

“With this traffic light system, I’m basically a second-class system,” Tania, a hairdresser of 35 years, said.

Under the red and orange settings, close-proximity businesses such as hairdressers and beauticians, can operate if they’re using My Vaccine Passes. All workers must be fully vaccinated by January 17.

Tania, who did not want to use her last name, fearing the repercussions, said she was not ready to get vaccinated, but also did not want to give up her career.

Make sure the QR code is clearly visible when you upload it.
STUFF
Make sure the QR code is clearly visible when you upload it.

READ MORE:
* Covid-19: Team of five million no more - what life will look like for the unvaccinated
* Covid-19: Restaurant owner reluctantly 'leaning towards' getting vaccinated to save business and jobs
* Covid-19: How bars and restaurants will work under the traffic light system

“I’m actually looking at changing my business to a private members’ society and entering signed agreements with my regular clients only [and] not taking on any new clients,” she said.

“I really want to scream about what's happening, it’s not right,” Tania said.

Chairman of Hair and Barber NZ, Niq​ James said the association had noticed a number of threads on social media discussing the issue.

“The issue is multi-layered, and some are choosing to risk fines and the potential spread of Covid-19 for a sense of loyalty towards their client,” James said.

It would probably be more common in Auckland, where hairdressers and barbers had been unable to work for three months and now needed to make up the lost income, he said.

“Fortunately we are now seeing that as it gets to the 11th hour, businesses that were looking at opening to all, vaccinated or not, have realised that if there were more lockdowns they wouldn’t get financial assistance, or the thought of hefty fines has deterred them from operating outside of the law.”

Niq James says Hair and Barber NZ has noticed a number of hairdressers trying to go against the vaccine mandate. (File photo)
George Heard/Stuff
Niq James says Hair and Barber NZ has noticed a number of hairdressers trying to go against the vaccine mandate. (File photo)

But working from home will not mean the new rules do not apply.

The Covid-19 legislation uses the same definitions of a workplace as the Health and Safety at Work Act – any place where a worker goes or is likely to be while at work, or where work is being carried out or is customarily carried out.

“If a business operated from a private residence but was not meeting requirements under the Covid-19 Protection Framework for the service they provide this can be reported as a potential breach,” a WorkSafe spokesman said.

“Where breaches fall under WorkSafe's responsibility, we would consider them and take appropriate action.”

Customers who were unaware of all the Covid-19 guidelines and how the traffic light system operates, were also at risk of accidentally breaking the rules.

An Association of Registered Beauty Professionals spokeswoman said some clients had already been caught out.

“They were not aware salons were not meant to be open and once it was pointed out to them, they were not pleased that they nearly went to a place doing black market trading,” she said.

“It was inevitable that there was going to be an underground black market.”

Black market traders would bring the industry into disrepute and the public would have no recompense if dissatisfied with a treatment, she said.

Taranaki gym franchise owner Allan Ross was looking into legal alternatives for unvaccinated people to continue to exercise.

Owner of Rampage Fitness Allan Ross wants to set up a facility for unvaccinated people to train. (File photo)
Simon O'Connor/Stuff
Owner of Rampage Fitness Allan Ross wants to set up a facility for unvaccinated people to train. (File photo)

All staff at his three Rampage Fitness gyms were vaccinated, and all gym-goers must show their vaccine pass to enter.

But Ross said he had been contacted by a “considerable” number of unvaccinated clients who were looking for somewhere to train after gyms became vaccine pass businesses.

“We’re trying to look at a facility within the legal requirements for the unvaccinated only.”

He has been working with his lawyer and police to figure out the legalities of such a facility.

“The reason the Government want people vaccinated is for their health, but they want to take away their health choices at the same time,” he said.

Business New Zealand chief executive Kirk Hope said he had heard anecdotal stories of people who did not want to be vaccinated or require their staff, or customers to be vaccinated.

BusinessNZ chief executive Kirk Hope says “everyone supports the goal” of better pay transparency but mandatory reporting could mean it becomes a ‘box ticking exercise’.
rnz
BusinessNZ chief executive Kirk Hope says “everyone supports the goal” of better pay transparency but mandatory reporting could mean it becomes a ‘box ticking exercise’.

“It’s an incredibly limiting thing to be doing,” he said.

“If you're doing it underground, you're not only taking health risks but a financial risk.”

Hope said he expected a few business owners to go against the grain, but it would short-lived, because it was an “extremely low” proportion of the population.

“They’ll end up tarring business with their brush,” he said.