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United Airlines CEO wants to make Covid vaccines mandatory for the company’s employees

A healthcare worker wears personal protective equipment (PPE) during a United Airlines Covid-19 test pilot program at Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, New Jersey, U.S., on Monday, Nov. 16, 2020.

Angus Mordant | Bloomberg | Getty Images

United Airlines‘ CEO wants to make Covid-19 vaccines mandatory for employees and is encouraging other companies do the same.

It’s a stance that differs from what some other carriers and companies have recently said. United had more than 60,000 active U.S. employees at the end of 2020 and has sent recall notices to some 17,000 other workers whose jobs were cut last year.

“The worst thing that I believe I will ever do in my career is the letters that I have written to the surviving family members of coworkers that we have lost to the coronavirus,” CEO Scott Kirby said at an employee town hall Thursday, a transcript of which was reviewed by CNBC. “And so, for me, because I have confidence in the safety of the vaccine – and I recognize it’s controversial – I think the right thing to do is for United Airlines, and for other companies, to require the vaccines and to make them mandatory.”

Kirby acknowledged logistical challenges to getting staff vaccinated.

Airline employees are considered essential workers and are among the first groups to receive the vaccines. But the rollout so far has been slow and chaotic with the nation running behind targets.

“I don’t think United will get away with and can realistically be the only company that requires vaccines and makes them mandatory,” he said. “We need some others. We need some others to show leadership. Particularly in the healthcare industry.”

In the staff note, it said it’s working with government officials and health-care providers to set up vaccine distribution centers at some of its big hubs.

Southwest Airlines last week said it does not “currently” require employees to get Covid-19 vaccines but said it strongly encouraged staff to do so.

American Airlines has a similar approach, telling employees last week that “We do not plan to require our team members to receive the vaccine unless vaccinations are ultimately mandated for entry to certain destinations.”

United told employees in a staff note this week to get vaccinated as soon as possible and not to wait for guidance from the airline.

Some companies are trying to persuade workers to get the vaccine by offering additional pay. Yogurt and food company Chobani said it will give employees in its manufacturing plants and offices up to six hours of paid time to get the two vaccinations.

So far, some retailers like Aldi, Lidl and Dollar General, have announced similar plans to offer extra pay. Aldi said it would also like to open on-site vaccination clinics at its warehouses and offices to make it easy for workers to get the shots and eliminate the obstacles of getting child care or finding transportation.

Source: Cnbc

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