The trade association that conglomerates the giants of air transport, such as UPS and FedEx, sent a letter to the Biden administration warning of the severity of the situation.
The United States’ federal government has imposed a rule whereby every company with more than 100 employees must require their workers to demonstrate that they have at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine before December 8. If employees do not present proof of vaccination in private companies, they can undergo a weekly COVID test. But for federal employees and companies that are state contractors, screening is not an option. Those who are not vaccinated cannot report to work.
This measure affects air distribution companies, the vast majority of which work as state contractors. FedEx, UPS, DHL Express, and Atlas Air (the air carrier that makes Amazon’s distributions) are all part of a trade association that is very concerned about the shortage of existing workers, the increase in demand in the season of holidays, and the possible decrease in the number of employees due to the vaccination mandate as of December 8.
“We have significant concerns with the mandate announced on September 9, 2021, and the ability of industry members to be able to comply with this requirement as of December 8,” says the letter sent to the government’s budget and administration office. Federal and signed by Stephen Alterman, President of the Association of Cargo Airlines.
The specific request of the association is not to eliminate the mandate but to postpone the deadline of December 8 to the “first half of 2022”. Health authorities in the country have insisted that December is an excellent date to encourage vaccination and thus try to control a new wave of infections that could skyrocket with winter in the northern hemisphere.
But the arrival of winter also implies the appearance of the holiday season, the peak of work for these product transport companies.
By way of argument in favor of extending the limit to implement the mandate, Alterman’s letter also indicates that a crisis in air travel may lead to delays in the vaccination process. Yet, these same companies are transporting vaccines from one side of the country to the other.
“The problem is exacerbated by the fact that we are already facing a shortage of workers, both in the air and on the ground. Therefore, any employee who refuses to be vaccinated and cannot come to work will negatively impact the entire operation,” the letter states.
It is not the first time that the industry has approached the White House for this vaccination mandate. The government’s highest levels have offered awareness campaigns about the vaccine for workers in this industry and available vaccination clinics for these employees. But moving the deadline could be a point where the Biden administration would not be willing to negotiate.
As a middle ground, Jeff Zients, the official in charge of this measure from the White House, has clarified that the objective is not to fire workers but to educate them.
“The objective is that people get vaccinated, not penalize them. We will not be laying off federal employees. Still, there will be a transition period in which they will be educated about the benefits of the vaccine, “added Zients, taking the burden off the layoffs.