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23 Dec, 2021 12:38

MMA gym fined for ‘egregious breach’ of vaccine mandates

MMA gym fined for ‘egregious breach’ of vaccine mandates

A combat sports gym in New Zealand has been hit with a hefty fine after it was found to have knowingly allowed unvaccinated staff members to work in defiance of the country's strict Covid certification guidelines.

WorkSafe, which is New Zealand's health and safety watchdog for the workplace, issued the gym with notice that they were in violation of the recently implemented 'traffic light' system which requires a range of business, including gyms, to ensure everyone on site has been vaccinated against Covid-19.

The group found that Oliver MMA, which is run by Steve and Krissy Oliver, had knowingly and deliberated acted in violation of the rules, leading to a fine of $12,000 New Zealand dollars (around $8,100) – the first such financial penalty handed out by WorkSafe amid the country's anti-Covid measures.

Steve Oliver has since suggested online that this isn't a one-off financial penalty, but rather a daily fine to be levied against them as long as they are deemed to be acting in opposition of the New Zealand Covid laws.

"Egregious breaches like this will be treated seriously," said head of general inspectorate Simon Humphries.

"This business has continued to operate in breach of the rules. That's not fair to the high number of businesses and organisations who have changed how they operate to keep people safe."

Humphries also noted that the gym had referenced its opposition to the rules on social media and indicated that it had little intention of following them.

"It's clear they aren't meeting the requirements and haven't intended to up to this point."

Speaking recently, the operators of the gym said they were determined to keep their doors open to members who had not been vaccinated and had been turned away from various other health and fitness centers.

"We are being approached on a daily basis by people who are experiencing extreme mental health distress," Steve Oliver told the NZ Herald.

"We care about them and have put in extra measures to ensure that we are helping them to get the right support and [being] there for them.

"They're great people down there doing [their] job. They're not stoked about what they're doing – $12,000 fine per day, that's not great.

"But we're doing our best to keep everyone happy here and safe."

Humphries added that businesses like Oliver MMA are very much in the minority when it comes to a lack of adherence to government regulations, and that WorkSafe has received very few reports of similar breaches.