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Just one-third of aviation workers double jabbed, says survey

written by Adam Thorn | July 13, 2021
The departure board at Canberra Airport (Victor Pody)

Just one-third of aviation workers in Australia have been fully vaccinated, according to a new survey by the TWU and VIPA.

The investigation, which questioned 789 employees including cabin crew, pilots, cleaners, baggage handlers and ground workers, also found a further 22 per cent had received just the one shot.

The results, first published in The Australian, are hugely significant given recent evidence from the UK that one dose of Pfizer provides just 36 per cent protection against symptomatic disease from the Delta variant, but two doses provide 88 per cent protection.

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It comes weeks after the TWU called on the government to prioritise cabin crew for COVID vaccines after a Virgin employee tested positive in June.

The new investigation by the unions revealed many workers had not been jabbed because of a lack of timeslot availability. Of those who had been inoculated, 70 per cent organised the shot themselves, while 30 per cent had help from their employer.

“We’d like to see all aviation workers across the country be vaccinated and we’ve been strongly encouraging our employees to get vaccinated as soon as they can,” Qantas said in response. “NSW has made vaccines mandatory for workers with anything to do with international flights and other states are likely to follow.”

Virgin Australia told the newspaper 65 per cent of its cabin crew, pilots and airport workers had been vaccinated or were registered to do so.

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In June, the TWU’s national secretary, Michael Kaine, said: “The inefficiency of the vaccination rollout, including the paucity of doses, has effectively pitted groups of critical workers to compete with each other for priority.

“This has resulted in the dangerous exclusion of frontline domestic flight crew.

“The fastest way to ensure national lockdowns and a health emergency is to put unvaccinated people onto multiple flights across the country.

“We need a ramp-up of vaccinations for frontline cabin crew, we need rapid testing before and after flights, and we need national leadership on clear safety protocols and enforcement of those protocols.”

The TWU and the Virgin Independent Pilots Association (VIPA) merged in May as the pair attempted to negotiate a crucial deal with the airline over pilots’ working terms.

Earlier on Tuesday, Australian Aviation revealed how the recent lockdowns have shut down 80 per cent of Rex’s business.

In an interview with US news channel CNBC, deputy chairman John Sharp also became the first major Australian airline chief to publicly call for the government to provide more assistance.

“If we don’t do something for airlines, there won’t be too many left at the end of this,” Sharp said.

It comes as speculation increases that aviation businesses will soon be forced to enact mass stand-downs of staff, with the news NSW’s lockdown is likely to continue for weeks. The state recorded 89 new locally acquired cases on Tuesday, down slightly from 112 on Monday.

“It’s hit us really hard,” said Sharp on Tuesday. “It’s devastating to see the impact. It’s really knocked out the vast majority of our business.

“We’ll lose revenue and we’ll have to pay people who we can’t generate income from. We’re back to where we were at the beginning of the COVID pandemic.

“Unless government is prepared to assist business, a lot of business will close. If this NSW lockdown continues for any length of time, it’s been suggested it could be for up to six weeks, government assistance will be needed.”

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