Virgin joins mandatory COVID vaccine push

·2-min read

Virgin Australia wants all frontline workers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by mid-November, joining Qantas in a push for mandatory inoculation.

Virgin has announced consultation will begin shortly with employees and unions about a proposal requiring all frontline workers to get vaccinated by November 15 and all office-based staff by March 31, 2022.

Those with medical issues "that can be substantiated" will be managed on a case-by-case basis, Virgin said in a statement.

Virgin Australia chief executive Jayne Hrdlicka said the vaccination policy was "vital" in keeping its workforce safe.

"The majority of our team at Virgin Australia are already vaccinated, and we will be listening to our team members to ensure we find the best fit policy for our organisation," she said.

"We will now commence discussing the proposed vaccination requirement in detail with our team through our internal safety committees, unions and other appropriate forums.

"It is clear that vaccination is the only way back to normal freedom of movement and the richness in life that comes from spending meaningful, in person time with family, friends and colleagues."

Virgin will begin an internal education campaign about the vaccines with qualified experts and said it will help workers to secure appointments and provide flexible working arrangements to allow staff to get vaccinated.

Transport Workers' Union national secretary Michael Kaine welcomed Virgin's approach to consultation, but said there are still barriers to vaccination, including appointment shortages, roster requirements and fear of losing pay.

"Consultation, information and support must be genuine and ongoing to ensure workers are heard, well-informed and have their concerns addressed," he said.

"Workers with genuine health concerns must receive support rather than be singled out, ridiculed or punished."

The union is calling for a national plan for aviation workers, including priority access to get vaccinated with appropriate paid leave provisions, and rapid pre-flight testing in airports.

Virgin said a final vaccination policy will be announced next month, after all feedback is considered.

It comes less than two weeks after Qantas announced pilots, cabin crew and airport employees will need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by mid-November.

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