United Airlines Prepares to Fire Employees Who Refuse Covid-19 Vaccinations

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Carrier estimates 593 employees missed shots by September 27 deadline

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Company officials said the September 27 deadline has now passed, and that while most of the airline’s employees complied, United is starting the process of sacking 593 employees who didn’t get shots. Airline officials said Tuesday that those employees could still save their jobs if they choose to get vaccinated ahead of their official termination meetings in the coming days.

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“We know for some, this decision was a reluctant one,” United Chief Executive Scott Kirby and President Bret Hart wrote in a letter to employees on Tuesday. “But we have no doubt in our minds that some of you may have avoided a future hospital stay – or even death – because you have been vaccinated.”

Potential termination applies to joint employees who opted not to be vaccinated. Company officials said around 2,000 United employees have sought exemptions for religious or medical reasons.

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United had planned to put those employees on unpaid leave from October 2, but has postponed it to October 15, while it opposes a lawsuit challenging the accommodation offered to such employees. Six United employees sued the airline in federal court in Texas last week, alleging that by offering only unpaid leave, the company was discriminating against employees who have religious objections to receiving the vaccine, or who are on medical grounds. qualify for accommodation.

The airline is disputing the lawsuit, and a hearing is set for October 8.

American airlines have taken different approaches when it comes to employee vaccinations. Delta Air Lines Starting in November Inc.

Non-vaccinated employees will need to pay an additional $200 per month for their company’s health insurance. The airline has said its vaccination rate had been climbing since the policy was implemented, with 82% of its employees now vaccinated, up from 72% in July.

Carriers including Southwest Airlines Co.

and American Airlines Group Inc.

So far have tried to encourage workers to voluntarily get vaccinated, but they are not required to. He can change; The Biden administration this month rolled out plans for new rules governing vaccinations for large companies and government contractors. It is not known whether airline employees will have the option to undergo routine testing in place of vaccination under the administration’s plans.

Pilots of both airlines have said they oppose the vaccine mandate. In a letter to federal officials last week, the union representing American Airlines pilots said that if vaccinations are strictly required, labor shortages and operational problems could arise for airlines during the holiday-travel season. . He said unvaccinated pilots should be allowed to fly if testing is done regularly. The union has stated that about 70% of American pilots are vaccinated.

At United, 20 pilots refused vaccination, and about 330 asked to stay, according to a message from the pilots union, which said it would bring a complaint to protest how the mandate for a handful of pilots are being implemented which will not comply. According to the Flight Attendant Union, fewer than 100 flight attendants refused vaccinations.

The union’s district president Michael Klemm, which represents about 25,000 United customer-service workers, ramp workers and others, said his members were divided. About half of the people had not been vaccinated before the new requirement was announced, Mr Klemm said. Some wanted to make sure their coworkers were vaccinated, while others have the option, Mr Klemm said.

In the end, about 350 workers in the union refused to comply, and another 700 sought exemptions, he said.

Alison Cider at [email protected]

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