An Australian airline is to make COVID-19 vaccination compulsory for all new and existing employees unless they can provide evidence of a valid medical or other legal reason to refuse the jab according to The Australian newspaper (paywall). The decision has already provoked anger from one pilot’s union in what could become a test case for employers requiring their staff to have the Coronavirus vaccine.
Alliance Aviation, which is nearly 20 per cent owned by Qantas, says employees who refuse to have the jab will face possible disciplinary action which could include being sacked. Contractors who want to do business with Alliance will also need to have the vaccine if they want to retain their contracts.
“There’s a few people within the company who may not be too happy with the stand we’ve taken, but the vast majority, well north of 95 per cent, are very supportive of it,” commented Scott McMillan, Alliance’s managing director.
“Right throughout the industry, there’s a big move towards people being vaccinated. All the senior management and directors have been vaccinated and we believe the way forward is for all of us to be vaccinated.”
Both Qantas and Virgin Australia have strongly encouraged their employees to get vaccinated as soon as they become eligible but they have not made it compulsory.
Brisbane based Alliance Aviation operates a fleet of small regional aircraft providing air charter services primarily to Australia’s booming mining industry, as well as operating flights on behalf of Qantas and Virgin Australia.
A recently issued internal memo stated that “all employees will take part in the Alliance Group Immunisation Program”. This could include an annual flu shot as well as the COVID-19 vaccination.
Employees who refuse to have either jab will be subjected to a risk assessment and those who fail to provide a legitimate reason to have the required shots will be classed as “a refusal to follow a lawful direction given to the employee by their employer.”
The memo states that “apropriate disciplinary action may be taken”.
The Australian Federation of Air Pilots, however, fears Alliance may have “overstepped the mark” by threatening employees with disciplinary action for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine. The union supports vaccination but doesn’t believe it should be compulsory and is currently reviewing its legal position.
But McMillan is confident that Alliance is on solid legal ground and is willing to test the airline’s position in court if necessary. Almost half of Alliance’s 700 strong workforce has already received their first dose of the vaccine.
In the U.S., Delta Air Lines will require all new employees to be COVID-19 vaccinated but has stopped short of making the jab mandatory for existing workers. Elsewhere, Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways will only staff flights with pilots and cabin crew who have been fully vaccinated.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.