Qantas Makes COVID-19 Vaccine Mandatory After Major Survey Showing Widespread Employee Support

Qantas Makes COVID-19 Vaccine Mandatory After Major Survey Showing Widespread Employee Support

Following the lead of SPC earlier this month, Qantas has mandated that its employees be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Frontline employees – including cabin crew, pilots and airport workers – will need to be fully vaccinated by 15 November 2021 and the remainder of employees by 31 March 2022.

There will be exemptions for those who are unable for documented medical reasons to be vaccinated, which is expected to be very rare.

The policy follows consultation with Qantas and Jetstar employees including a survey sent to 22,000 people to seek their views on vaccination. The 12,000 responses received makes it one of the biggest single surveys on this topic in Australia.

According to the survey, 87 per cent of employees had already been vaccinated or are planning to be, while three quarters felt that it should be a requirement for all employees to be vaccinated. They also recorded that they would be concerned if fellow employees weren’t vaccinated.

Comments from employees surveyed included, “I don’t want to work with anyone that has not had it. Why should I come to work and have other co-workers that come make me sick?”

Another said, “it is not something I would have normally done but happy to do for a safe workplace and if it keeps me and my family safe.”

Alan Joyce, Qantas CEO, said in a statement that, “having a fully vaccinated workforce will safeguard our people against the virus but also protect our customers and the communities we fly to.”

“One crew member can fly into multiple cities and come into contact with thousands of people in a single day. Making sure they are vaccinated given the potential of this virus to spread is so important and I think it’s the kind of safety leadership people would expect from us.”

“We provide an essential service, so this will help guard against the disruptions that can be caused by just one positive COVID-case shutting down a freight facility or airport terminal,” he continued.

“It’s clear that vaccinations are the only way to end the cycle of lockdowns and border closures and for a lot of Qantas and Jetstar employees that means getting back to work again. This was one of the largest responses to any survey we’ve conducted, even with thousands of our people stood down, which shows just how important this is for them.”

Qantas will be undertaking further discussions with employees, unions, and health and safety representatives in the coming weeks.

When SPC mandated vaccinations, it received backlash from anti-vaxxers online.

Their decision also received some criticism from the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) and The Australian Manufacturer Workers’ Union (AMWU).

Sally McManus, the ACTU’s secretary, said that the unions would only support mandatory vaccine requirements if they stemmed from public health orders.

She said, “only public health experts should be responsible for mandating vaccines, not individual employers. Many employers across the country are taking a different approach and instead doing what they can to support employees getting vaccinated by ensuring they have paid leave, especially for casuals if they have routine side effects.”

“This will be the most effective, conflict free way of maximising the number of people who choose to get vaccinated and we would encourage all employers to do the same.”

The AMWU’s main criticism was that SPC had not consulted with them over the rule.

Jason Hefford, the union’s assistant state secretary for Victoria said, “the issue isn’t people’s willingness to get the vaccine, it’s accessibility. The responsibility for the Morrison Government’s failing rollout shouldn’t be shifted onto the shoulders of working people.”

“If workers are expected to get jabs in their arms, then we need to ensure the true barriers are removed.”

SPC CEO Rovert Giles responded to the unions’ claims in a statement, saying, “we firmly reject the AMWU’s assertion that they were not properly consulted in our vaccine mandate.”

“This mandate is a business decision to ensure the safety of our staff as well as the broader community. It is the responsibility of the directors of the business (who are also liable) to provide a safe working environment一not the union.”

“We have consulted, and will always consult, with our local union officials in line with our Enterprise Agreement regarding the best way to implement our decision一not in the formation of our business’s decision.”

Giles went on to say, “a number of Australian businesses have required their employees to be vaccinated, for example, the flu shot, and to provide evidence of such as a condition of their employment.”

“This is nothing new and must be viewed in the context of the Delta strain of COVID-19 which poses a new and unique threat to the safety of our staff.”

“Staff members who have genuine medical grounds that preclude them from being vaccinated against COVID-19 will be treated with the utmost compassion.”

As of yet, the unions have not made any statements about Qantas’s decision.

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