The TWU has accused Qantas of failing to consult with its workers before announcing that COVID vaccination would soon be mandatory for all staff.
The union said employees are still concerned about the difficulties in accessing a jab or losing pay as a result of taking time off.
Qantas, however, said earlier that 89 per cent of its staff had either been inoculated or were planning to be, and a survey revealed three-quarters of employees supported the decision.
The TWU’s national secretary, Michael Kaine, said the “snap announcement” was completely void of a plan.
“Qantas has jumped the gun yet again ahead of the Attorney General’s roundtable today of ACTU and employer associations on vaccination take up,” said Kaine.
“Workers have spoken out about the difficulties they’ve faced accessing the vaccine, but Qantas has refused to listen. Qantas’ own survey shows vaccine hesitancy is extremely low, yet Qantas has pushed ahead with another unilateral decision that will heap unnecessary stress onto workers.
“Qantas knows that workers are worried about losing out on pay or shifts that could earn them penalty rates while trying to get vaccinated and recovering from side effects.
“This means nothing to Alan Joyce, who enjoyed an $11 million pay packet last year but means everything to workers who’ve been dragged through hell and battled with uncertainty and the prospect of financial ruin over the last 18 months.
“If Qantas truly had health and safety in mind, it would be offering support to workers and ensuring rapid testing of passengers and crew is put in place to prevent the risk of spread on planes.”
Earlier on Wednesday, Qantas said that from 15 November 2021 it will mandate cabin crew, pilots and airport ground workers to be fully vaccinated against COVID, while the remaining workforce will have until 31 March 2022 to get the jab.
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Qantas noted that there will be exemptions offered to those who are unable to receive the vaccine “for documented medical reasons”, which the airline expects to be a “very rare” instance.
The policy applies to staff across both its Qantas and Jetstar brands, and the decision was made following consultation with employees across both airlines.
According to Qantas, 89 per cent of employees had already been vaccinated or are planning to be, at the time of the survey, while just 4 per cent were unwilling or unable.
Around three-quarters of respondents agreed that vaccination should be a requirement for all employees, and would be concerned if other employees in the workplace weren’t vaccinated, Qantas said.
Announcing the policy, Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said, “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.”
Qantas has long held the view that vaccines would be mandatory for all passengers aboard international flights, and recently called for compulsory vaccination for all aviation workers, due to the fact that they “come into contact with thousands of people each day.”
“Ever since a COVID-19 vaccine was approved the Qantas Group has strongly encouraged our people to get vaccinated and are offering paid time off to get the jab,” said the airline in a statement. “We’ve also lobbied government for priority access to the vaccine for aviation workers.
“We’ve done this not just because vaccinations are the only way to end the cycle of lockdowns and border closures, but because they are proven to be one of the strongest layers of protection against the potentially serious heath impact of this virus.”
The airline has also introduced a slew of prizes and incentives to customers who get vaccinated, as the airline works to push up the country’s vaccination rates in an ambitious bid to see Australia’s international borders reopen by the end of this year.
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