Qantas will make it mandatory for all its employees to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
Cabin crew, pilots, airport workers and other frontline workers will need to be fully vaccinated by November 15 and the remainder of employees by March 31.
Currently, 60 per cent of Qantas 22,000 staff are fully vaccinated, while more than three-quarters of its staff have already had at least one jab.
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said having a fully vaccinated workforce “will safeguard our people against the virus but also protect our customers and the communities we fly to”.
“It’s clear that vaccinations are the only way to end the cycle of lockdowns and border closures and for a lot of Qantas and Jetstar employees that means getting back to work again,” he said.
The decision to mandate vaccinations followed an internal survey of its workers which found around three-quarters saying it should be a requirement for all employees to be vaccinated.
“We were really pleased to see from the survey that more than three quarters of those who responded have already rolled up their sleeve at least once and 60 per cent have had both jabs,” said Joyce.
“Many of our people said they would feel concerned about working with unvaccinated colleagues, which is something that many workplaces across the country are grappling with.
“We understand there will be a very small number of people who decide not to get the vaccine, and that’s their right, but it’s our responsibility to provide the safest possible environment for our employees and for our customers.”
But the Transport Workers Union (TWU) said Qantas had “jumped the gun yet again”.
“This snap announcement is completely void of a plan to support workers to get vaccinated by November,” said TWU national secretary Michael Kaine.
“Qantas knows that workers are worried about losing out on pay or shifts that could earn them penalty rates while trying to get vaccinated and recovering from side effects.
“If Qantas truly had health and safety in mind, it would be offering support to workers and ensuring rapid testing of passengers and crew is put in place to prevent the risk of spread on planes.”
The Business Council of Australia and the Australian Council of Trade Unions have also spoken out against forced vaccinations, saying they “should be free and voluntary”.
“We believe that for the overwhelming majority of Australians, your work or workplace should not fundamentally alter the voluntary nature of vaccination,” the two organisations said in a joint statement.
“The ACTU and the BCA call on governments and the national cabinet to…ensure that where mandatory vaccination requirements are necessary, they are implemented through the use of nationally consistent public health orders.”
The Federal Government has also stated it has no plans to make vaccinations mandatory.