Air New Zealand is proposing to make Covid-19 vaccination mandatory for around 4,000 employees, or about half of its workforce.
About 2,300 Air New Zealand cabin crew, pilots, engineers and maintenance technicians, airports and supply chains are already covered by a mandatory vaccination order introduced by the government in July.
These workers must have received their first dose of Covid-19 vaccine by September 30 and be fully vaccinated in early November.
So far, more than 86 percent had received their first dose of the vaccine and 82 percent had received both doses.
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Air New Zealand is now considering expanding the mandatory vaccination requirement to include all staff who interact with customers or their baggage, and those who were required to travel to the workplace when public health measures required working from home. to the extent possible.
Staff have until September 15 to provide feedback.
Captain David Morgan, Air New Zealand’s chief operational integrity and safety officer, said the company would make a decision by September 17 after reviewing the comments.
The transmissibility of the Delta variant had altered the risk profile of Covid-19, and the airline had an obligation to protect the health and safety of its staff and their families, he said.
The company had not yet decided on the possibility of laying off staff affected by the proposal who did not wish to receive a vaccine.
“There are many opportunities within the company for other roles,” Morgan said.
He said Air New Zealand was one of the first companies to publicly discuss mandatory vaccination and that this would set a precedent.
Many people who would be affected by the proposal have reportedly already been vaccinated, he said.
New employees hired in proposed roles should be vaccinated, and vaccination may have become a condition of employment for all new employees hired at the company, he said.
“The executive has not formed an opinion on this and this question will undoubtedly be asked as part of the consultation.”
The proposal was an executive decision and there was no pressure from the government, which owns 52% of the airline.
“We just think it’s the right thing to do.”
The move follows an announcement by the Qantas Group in mid-August that it would require all staff to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 by March 31.
Virgin Australia also announced on Monday that it had started consultations with staff and unions on its proposal to require vaccination against Covid-19 for all staff and that a final policy would be announced this month.
In an email to staff, Air New Zealand said, in light of the Delta variant, that it had reviewed its risk controls to assess whether they were sufficient to protect the health and safety of staff.
Vaccination has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of individuals suffering serious illness and death associated with the new Delta variant of Covid-19, he said. It also significantly reduced the risk of transmitting Covid-19 to others, he said.
“We recognize and respect that the decision to be vaccinated is a personal one, but we also have a duty to take all steps reasonably possible to protect our employees from harm,” he said.
“The rapidly evolving nature of the virus means we need to act quickly to make a decision on this.
“We understand that there will be different views on immunization, and that if we go ahead with the proposal, it may impact your ability to continue working in your current role.”