Brisbane-based Alliance Airlines is making COVID-19 vaccinations compulsory for all employees. The airline, which operates passenger flights for Qantas and Virgin Australia, employs around 700 people. However, not all are welcoming the ‘vaccinate or else’ rule.
Alliance Airlines employees face “disciplinary action” for refusing vaccinations
A report in The Australian newspaper on Sunday, May 30, first flagged the new policy. That report said Alliance Airlines employees would all need a vaccination or face “disciplinary action.”
According to Alliance Airlines, they have a duty of care to provide a safe workplace for employees and passengers. The new rule extends to contractors and their employees contracted to work for Alliance Airlines. In addition to operating on behalf of commercial airlines, Alliance Airlines does extensive fly-in-fly-out and charter work.
Alliance Airlines employees who initially refuse vaccination will face a risk assessment process. Continued refusal without valid legal or medical grounds will see them subject to “appropriate disciplinary action.” The new rule doesn’t cover just COVID-19 vaccinations; it also mandates an influenza vaccination. Tuesday is the first day of winter in Australia, marking the onset of the flu season.
“Right throughout the industry, there’s a big move towards people being vaccinated. All the senior management and directors have been vaccinated, and we believe the way forward is for all of us to be vaccinated,” Alliance Airlines Managing Director Scott McMillan told The Australian.
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Alliance Airlines the first Australian airlines to make vaccinations compulsory
Around 20% of Australia’s 25.3 million people have had the first COVID-19 vaccination round. But only about 2.5% of the population have had both shots. However, the rollout is slowly gathering pace with widespread support.
No other Australian airlines are making COVID-19 vaccinations compulsory across their workforces. While many businesses, including Qantas and Virgin Australia, encourage their employees to get vaccinated, Alliance Airlines is the first to make vaccinations a non-negotiable policy.
A spokesperson for Virgin Australia told Simple Flying they “are strongly encouraging that eligible team members be vaccinated for COVID-19 in line with the latest government advice and are consulting on these arrangements with respective unions and employee consultative groups.”
Qantas has declined to comment on the matter.
With its fleet of 50 planes, Alliance Airlines has a growing profile in the Australian airline market. Last week, the airline began operating Embraer E190 flights for QantasLink under a wet lease contract. Five Alliance Airlines crew members (two in the cockpit and three in the cabin) work the flights wearing QantasLink uniforms.
Alliance Airlines also has a long history of working with Virgin Australia and is readying to reboot that relationship. Under a similar deal, Alliance Airlines planes will fly regional routes and sectors considered too small to support Virgin’s Boeing 737-800 aircraft.
“There are a few people within the company who may not be too happy with the stand we’ve taken, but the vast majority, well north of 95%, are very supportive of it,” says Scott McMillan.
Some reservations about the new Alliance Airlines vaccination policy
Unions representing pilots and flight attendants both voiced concerns about mandating COVID-19 vaccinations. The Australian Federation of Air Pilots supports vaccinations but not making them compulsory. It is a view the Flight Attendants Association shares.
“These mandatory decisions should not be left for employers to make,” an FAA spokesperson told The Australian.
“This decision must be made by medical professionals in conjunction with medical advice and should involve extensive workplace consultation and information,” says the Transport Workers Union National Secretary, Michael Kaine. “It is not a decision which should be made by employers in the absence of that advice and consultation. In this case, it has involved an employer unilaterally deciding to introduce mandatory vaccination.”
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