United joins Cathay Pacific in mandatory Covid vaccination for workers

Carrier says decision grew out of concern for employee health ‘Everyone is safer’ when all are vaccinated, company says

By Bloomberg News, August 9 2021
United joins Cathay Pacific in mandatory Covid vaccination for workers

United Airlines will require all workers to be vaccinated against Covid-19, becoming the first major U.S. carrier to impose the mandate.

Employees must receive the vaccine and upload their injection record to a company database no later than October 25, although that date could change, United said in a memo Friday.

"We know some of you will disagree with this decision," Chief Executive Officer Scott Kirby and President Brett Hart said in the memo.

"But we have no greater responsibility to you and your colleagues than to ensure your safety when you're at work, and the facts are crystal clear: Everyone is safer when everyone is vaccinated."

United’s 67,000 active, U.S.-based employees will be required to upload a card showing they’ve received the required number of doses.

United will also require documentation from workers who seek religious or medical exemptions; those who otherwise refuse will face firing.

About 90% of United's pilots and 80% of flight attendants have been vaccinated, the carrier said.

American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and Delta Air Lines are "strongly" encouraging employees to be vaccinated but none requires it.

Employees of low-cost US carrier Frontier Airlines must be fully vaccinated by October 1, or provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test on a regular basis, according to a company statement late Friday.

No jab, no job..?

Cathay Pacific has already decreed that its Hong Kong-based pilots and flight attendants must be vaccinated by August 31 or risk losing their jobs, after the airline struggled with staff rostering due to differing rules over flight crewing and quarantine for vaccinated and unvaccinated workers.

"We understand there will be some who cannot take a vaccine and we will look into accommodating them on a short-term basis where we can," the airline said in a statement.

"However, we will review the future employment of those who are unable to become vaccinated and assess whether they can continue to be employed as aircrew with Cathay Pacific."

Qantas, Virgin call for national approach

Locally, Qantas has called for mandatory vaccination for all aviation workers in Australia. Jabs are already compulsory for airline staff in NSW and South Australia, but the airline says a national approach is needed.

"Without a national approach, we'll wind up with a patchwork of rules between the borders that our people cross multiple times a day," the airline said in a statement, noting that its frontline workers "come into contact with thousands of people each day."

"While all the data shows that the risk of Covid transmission on-board aircraft remains very low, and there are many safeguards at airports, nothing reduces the risk to health like the vaccines approved for use in Australia."

Virgin Australia says it is also "supportive of a nationally consistent and government-led vaccine mandate for all airline employees doing operational work."

Additional reporting by David Flynn

This article is published under license from Bloomberg Media: the original article can be viewed here

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