Qantas is stepping up its campaign to get its workers and workers across the aviation industry vaccinated against COVID-19. While not yet mandatory, Qantas is encouraging its workers to roll up their sleeves. The airline’s CEO also wants the Australian Government to mandate and prioritize vaccinating aviation workers.
Qantas boss wants to see all aviation workers vaccinated
Some 16 months into the worldwide travel downturn, Qantas continues to feel the pain. Almost all its international flights are suspended, and local lockdowns and internal border closures continue to hamper Qantas’ domestic services. Australia’s biggest city and Qantas’ home port, Sydney, remains closed down for the foreseeable future. Consequently, other Australian states have closed their borders to residents of the city and the state of New South Wales.
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce says vaccinations are the only way to end the cycle of lockdowns and border closures. Speaking on ABC Radio on Thursday morning, Mr Joyce said;
“We believe the COVID-19 vaccination should be a requirement for all aviation workers.”
The problem for Qantas is there is no Federal Government mandate covering all aviation workers. Some Australian states, including New South Wales and South Australia, have specific vaccination rules targeting aviation workers, which Qantas abides by. But the hodgepodge of rules, including various workplace health and safety requirements, means getting all Qantas employees vaccinated is no easy task right now.
Qantas pays employees to take time off to get vaccinated
When questioned why Qantas didn’t roll out its own vaccination program independent of government, Alan Joyce said the process was underway, but it was not straightforward.
“The work and health and safety requirements involved us going through a consultation period, which we are doing.” Qantas is currently doing an employee survey regarding vaccinations. “That consultation process will inform us of what our employees think. We think the overwhelming majority of our people want this as a requirement.”
Meanwhile, Qantas is giving all employees eight hours of paid time off to go and get vaccinated.
“We’re encouraging people all the time to do that,” Mr Joyce said.
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Qantas CEO says vaccinations are the way out of lockdowns and travel restrictions
With nearly all Qantas international services suspended, the airline relies on its domestic network to generate revenue and keep its employees at work.
“We were planning for 100% of our pre-COVID domestic schedule (this month) that was getting 16,000 workers back to work,” the Qantas CEO said. Citing snap local border closures, Alan Joyce admitted, “we only ended up operating 40% of that schedule.”
Mr Joyce says vaccinations are key to getting his planes back in the air again. In a well-publicized case, an unvaccinated QantasLink flight attendant recently worked flights to three regional Queensland communities. It was later thought she had COVID-19 while working, but it turned out she was infected after flying. It was a false alarm with widespread local reverberations.
“I had the mayor of Longreach ring me worried that 68 people there had to be tested,'” said Mr Joyce. “I’m worried that would have spread to those regional communities. The risk involved in this, to the community, to the country, is such that we think vaccinations should be a requirement for all aviation workers.”