Weeks after federal Transportation Minister Omar Alghbra mandated regulated airline employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19, WestJet Group announced it would require all of its employees to be fully vaccinated by October 30.
“Protecting the health and safety of our guests and employees is our first priority, and vaccinations are our best line of defense,” WestJet executive vice president Mark Porter said in a statement on Wednesday.
“Aviation has been one of the hardest hit industries, and we believe the need to vaccinate all WestJet Group employees is the right thing to do and WestJet ensures the safest travel and work environment for everyone in the world “
Porter said the vaccine as an employment requirement is “essential to safely resume travel across Canada.”
A press release for the Calgary-based airline said there will be assessments and accommodations for those who are unable to be vaccinated for a medical exemption. The test will not be provided by the airline as a substitute for vaccination.
WestJet employees face the possibility of unpaid leave or dismissal if they do not confirm their vaccine status by September 24 or complete their vaccination by October 30.
A WestJet spokesperson said the timeline still gives employees time to make up their mind to fully vaccinate by the end of October.
“Once we reach 30 October, those (unvaccinated) individuals will be placed on an unpaid leave for the month of November so that they can finally make a final determination and, if they so desire, the information they need. Richard Bartram, WestJet’s vice president of marketing and communications, told Granthshala News that the first vaccine and then the second go down the road four weeks later.
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“In the event that doesn’t happen on December 1, they will no longer be WestJet employees, unfortunately.”
In a statement to Granthshala News, CUPE Local 4070 President Chris Raunbusch said the union is aware of WestJet’s stated policy and takes very seriously the responsibility to represent the rights of its members.
“Our legal counsel is currently reviewing the details of the declaration along with the requirements announced by the federal government,” Raunbusch said.
Bartreme said WestJet’s vaccinated workforce could bring back confidence in travel.
“(Travellers) want to understand that whole travel journey or in that travel ecosystem what measurements are being taken to make sure it’s as safe as possible.”
WestJet joins Air Canada, Porter Airlines and Air Transat in creating mandatory vaccine policies for their employees following the federal announcement.
South of the border, airlines such as Delta, American and United have all made vaccine mandates for their employees.
Earlier on Wednesday, Canadian National Railways announced that all of its employees should be fully vaccinated by November 1.
-With Reuters files