Qantas, the Australian national airline, has announced that all its staff must take the COVID-19 vaccine or lose their jobs, in the latest move by an airline to prevent outbreaks amongst employees and passengers.
Frontline workers at the airline including pilots, cabin crew and airport staff must be fully vaccinated by mid-November, it said.
The company, which was one of Australia’s hardest-hit businesses during the pandemic, says its remaining employees have until the end of March next year to receive both doses.
In a statement, Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said: “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.”
United Airlines in the US has similarly mandated vaccination, although most airlines have yet to take that step.
Some, like Delta, only require new staff to be vaccinated, while others, like Emirates, tell staff to pay for their own regular testing if they remain unvaccinated.
To date, no major European airline has introduced similar rules, and neither has Malta flag carrier Air Malta.
However, local companies like APS Bank, Methode, and some private schools have introduced measures that make life for the unvaccinated more difficult.
APS Bank told its employees last month that they would need to submit evidence that they received the vaccine or present a negative PCR test on a weekly basis, with the time taken to get swabbed during work hours taken out of their annual leave.
The Malta Union of Bank Employees had hit back at the measure, saying the bank had imposed the measure unilaterally, in a way that “unfairly penalised workers”.
“MUBE strongly objects to deduction from staff members’ vacation leave and to any other measure that is detrimental to performing employees who strive to perform at their best during such sensitive times,” the union said.
Qantas meanwhile said it put the question of mandatory vaccination to its 22,000 employees, 89 per cent of whom are vaccinated or planned to be.
Only four per cent of the 12,000 responses indicated they were unwilling or unable to get the vaccine, with three-quarters agreed making it mandatory.
The airline said that staff with documented medical reasons for not being able to be vaccinated would be given an exemption.
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