On Tuesday, Austria’s conservative-green government reached an agreement with the centre-left Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ) in the Federal Council to pave the way for the introduction of 3G (requiring proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative Covid-19 test) in the workplace.
The SPÖ demanded a continuation of free Covid-19 tests past the end of October in the event of 3G in the workplace, which has now been agreed by the governing coalition parties.
In return, the SPÖ will not block the law as it said it planned to do earlier, and more details about exactly how the law change would be formulated and when it will come into effect are expected to be announced in the coming days. The opposition parties have previously unanimously voted against the new law, but SPÖ’s support means the law should pass.
A 3G requirement in the workplace means anyone that does not work alone will have to show proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative Covid-19 test. It is still unclear if there will be additional mask requirements for people with a negative test but without proof of vaccination or recovery.
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Why did the government need support from the SPÖ?
The Austrian coalition government is currently in the minority in the Federal Council, so they needed support from another party to pass laws.
The Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) and the New Austria and Liberal Forum (NEOS) were not expected to back the law, having opposed the tightening of Covid-19 restrictions, but the SPÖ presented a compromise in the form of ongoing free Covid-19 tests.
If the coalition government had not agreed to this, the SPÖ could have joined the FPÖ and the NEOS in voting against the law and blocking it for another eight weeks.
Following Tuesday’s agreement in the Federal Council, the provisional end date for free Covid-19 tests in Austria has been pushed back to the end of March 2022.
The FPÖ is not happy with the developments and leader Herbert Kickl, who has publicly opposed vaccination, said the law will send the message that “unvaccinated people are evil”.
What do The Local’s readers think?
“It creates a safe work environment for everyone.,” said a 31-year-old reader from Poland.
“As long as the tests are free, I don’t see a problem in this proposal,” commented a 27-year-old engineer.
“It would make me feel safer and sure that those who say are vaccinated really are,” said a 40-year-old, originally from Latvia.
Another reader expressed concerns about how the rule would be put into practice. “My fear is twofold: a black market of fake certificates, and false security when having 3G from vaccination/recovery if 3G means no masks. Banning people from earning an income is too much. And I say this as someone who has had Covid, is fully vaccinated and gets tested regularly and wears a mask always,” said a reader working as a photographer in Vienna.
“It takes away the freedom of the individual, passively aggressively forcing people to get vaccinated. No good will come from such a decision,” said a reader who asked to remain anonymous.
Similar 3G rules already in place in Italy
Austria is not the only country to pursue 3G in the workplace, with neighbouring Italy already rolling out the new law.
Since Friday 15th October, all public, private and self-employed workers in Italy have to produce a health certificate showing they are vaccinated, recovered or have proof of a recent negative test in order to enter any workplace.
Employees without this proof face penalties of between €600 and €1,500, and salaries will be frozen from the first day that they are without the certificate. Employers are subject to fines of between €400 and €1,000 for failing to uphold the rules.
The law is currently in place until December 31st 2021, which is the deadline for the end of the state of emergency.