camila September 29, 2021

NEW YORK (AFP, BLOOMBERG) – United Airlines will dismiss nearly 600 employees who refused to comply with a requirement to be vaccinated for Covid-19, company officials said on Tuesday (Sept 28).

Besides the 593 workers who refused to get vaccinated, another 2,000 employees have also requested a medical or religious exemption to the vaccine requirement, company officials said. That is about 3 per cent of United’s 67,000-person workforce.

The big United States carrier said it was pleased with the overall impact of the policy. In early August, United announced that all US employees would be required to receive the vaccine and upload their vaccine card into the company’s system.

More than 99 per cent of the remaining US staff complied with the requirement, according to a memo to employees from United chief executive Scott Kirby and president Brett Hart.

The airline is working on its policies for employees who have requested exemptions, citing a pending court case on the matter.

“This was an incredibly difficult decision but keeping our team safe has always been our first priority,” Mr Kirby and Mr Hart said in the memo. “The most effective way to keep our people safe, is to make sure they’re vaccinated.”

US President Joe Biden was scheduled to meet Mr Kirby on Wednesday in Chicago ahead of an event related to his push for US companies to require employee vaccinations. But Mr Biden’s trip to Chicago was called off.

Last week, six United employees sued the carrier in federal court in Texas, alleging the mandate violates laws offering religious and disability accommodations in the workplace. The airline’s policy offers no alternative for mask wearing, periodic testing or social distancing, the workers said.

United said it would follow the requirements of agreements with unions as far as employee dismissals for people who refused vaccines.

“For the less than 1 per cent of people who decided to not get vaccinated, we’ll unfortunately begin the process of separation from the airline per our policy,” the memo said.