SEATTLE, Nov. 8 (Reuters) – The number of Boeing Co (BN) employees requesting a vaccine exemption for religious or medical reasons has reached more than 11,000 – nearly 9% of its US workforce – a level several times higher than that of executives. initially estimated, people familiar with the matter told Reuters.
Widespread reluctance has left executives scrambling for a strategy that keeps employees safe and complies with President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for federal contractors, but avoids an exodus of engineering and labor force ‘factory, people said.
The stalemate comes as the U.S. aircraft manufacturer attempts to overcome industrial and certification challenges of its 787, 777X and Starliner spacecraft programs, as well as declining demand and supply chain shortages. Read more
Late last week, the White House extended its deadline to Jan.4 for employees of federal contractors to be vaccinated or tested regularly if they are granted exemptions.
On Friday, Boeing then extended its deadline for employees to take a COVID-19 vaccine or file a religious or medical exemption by about a month to Jan.4, according to industry sources and an email from the company as seen by Reuters.
“Compliance remains a condition of employment,” the internal email said.
The Boeing email also said that employees whose applications would be approved would be required to wear face coverings, physically distance themselves and frequently test for COVID-19.
“Anyone who has not received their final dose or who has not been approved for accommodation, and who has registered their immunization status before January 4, will receive a final warning and will have to comply quickly if they wish to remain employed. at Boeing., read the email.
A Boeing spokesperson declined to provide a tally of requests for immunization exemptions.
“Boeing is committed to maintaining a safe working environment for our employees, and advancing the health and safety of our global workforce is fundamental to our values,” said the spokesperson.
Wearing a face mask during company-wide webcasts, Boeing chief executive Dave Calhoun urged employees to get vaccinated, two employees said.
Two Boeing insiders said executives initially estimated vaccine resistance at around 2% of workers, a number the company could manage. But last week, someone familiar with the matter said more than 10,000 employees had filed religious exemptions, and a second person said the number rose to more than 11,300. About 1,000 other workers filed for religious exemptions. medical exemption, said another.
The fact that the vast majority of applications were based on religious motives pushed one of the largest employers in the United States to the center of a debate over the ethics of investigating an employee’s religious beliefs.
A person asking for a religious exemption said the company had no right to do so under the law or its own anti-discrimination policies.
Another, a senior engineer, said: “The long list of program issues makes it difficult for the company to be proud of. Managing the vaccine mandate is for many.”
The problem is hitting other aerospace companies. About 50 employees at Boeing-Lockheed Martin Corp’s (LMT.N) United Launch Alliance (ULA) rocket plant in Decatur, Alabama, have already been put on unpaid leave, or have decided to retire. early, after refusing to be vaccinated by a deadline company, two of the sources said.
A third person said ULA executives expect, in the worst-case scenario, to lose 15% of its approximately 2,600 employees, or up to 390 people.
A ULA spokesperson has so far said that 1% of its workforce, or around 26 people, has left the company for good. The ULA “has decided to require vaccinations to ensure the health and safety of our employees and to align with US government directions to customers and industry,” the spokesperson said.
The departures come after ULA leaders decided to deny all requests for exemption from employees on religious grounds, believing it would take too long to assess each case, among other reasons, the third said. anybody.
“I do not comply with strong weaponry or coercion,” said ULA welder Brent Vandiver, 45, who was among the workers on unpaid leave.
Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle Editing by Joseph White, Matthew Lewis and Michael Perry
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