By John Flett
Canadian Government To Require All Airline Employees To Be Vaccinated
The government of Canada has announced that significant measures will be enacted from as early as the end of September requiring all federal employees to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
In the announcement issued Friday, major changes will be implemented for the aviation and wider transport industries. Canada will “require employees in the federally regulated air, rail, and marine transportation sectors to be vaccinated. The vaccination requirement will also extend to certain travellers. This includes all commercial air travellers, passengers on interprovincial trains, and passengers on large marine vessels with overnight accommodations, such as cruise ships.”
“Driving vaccine uptake in Canada to as high a level as possible is one of the most effective, and least disruptive, means at our disposal to sustain the gains we have made in recent months, and ensure that we continue on our path to economic recovery, and a healthier and more equitable future,” Jean-Yves Duclos, President of the Treasury Board said. “With this announcement, we are doing more to protect the health and safety of Canadians and reduce the risk of Covid-19.”
Companies linked to the Canadian aviation industry were quick to respond to the live conference announcing the government’s policy. Air Canada and WestJet both issued statements in support of the initiative though stressed that they were awaiting further information on how the measures would be enacted.
Air Canada stated that the move was “a welcome step forward in the evolving measures to protect the health and safety of airline employees, customers and all Canadians.” In a published statement, the airline echoed it was “committed to work with its unions and the government of Canada to implement this new policy in an effective manner with the aim of increasing safety and streamlining the application of science-based health and safety measures in a manner consistent with the government’s Covid-19 Testing and Screening Expert Advisory Panel report of May 5, 2021.”
The latter statement referred to the Covid-19 Testing and Screening Expert Advisory Panel’s recommendation “that there should be no pre-departure testing for fully vaccinated travellers; acknowledging that testing at both departure and arrival is excessive for these passengers; and that effective self-administered rapid antigen tests now available can safely replace slower and more expensive PCR testing for pre-departure tests.” Such a move would assist in lowering the cost of travel for passengers faced with expensive testing requirements that are limiting the return of international travel demand.
WestJet currently has 6,000 active employees and a further 4,000 inactive or on furlough.
“We understand our people will have questions and will be discussing with our employee and labour groups in real-time,” Mark Porter, WestJet Executive Vice-President, People and Culture, said in a statement. “We are seeking additional detail from the federal government on the requirement and are committed to working together to ensure the successful implementation of the policy by late October.”
At the time of writing, more than 71% of eligible Canadians are fully vaccinated with a total of 82% having received one dose, leaving approximately six million eligible Canadians currently unvaccinated.