United’s new vaccination policy was straightforward. Get vaccinated or get fired.
The airline rule, enacted on Aug. 6, said all non-exempt employees who were not fully vaccinated by Sept. 27 would face termination.
Doing as it said, the Chicago-based carrier determined on Monday that only 593 of its 67,000 US employees had failed to upload their immunization cards or apply for a medical or religious exemption, as some 2,000 workers did.
However, on Wednesday it announced that 273 of them either uploaded their cards late or rushed to get a vaccine last minute, which means that 99.5% of the United workforce decided to accept the rule.
“In less than 48 hours, the number of unvaccinated employees who began the process of being separated from the company has been cut almost in half, dropping from 593 to 320,” reads a statement shared by an airline spokesperson.
“That means 99.5 percent of United’s U.S. employees have now chosen to get vaccinated, excluding those who sought an exemption,” the statement concludes.
Speaking about this harsh approach, United president Brett Hart said the company was certain this policy will help some of its employees avoid a hospital stay or even a tragic death.
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But, is the airline that concerned about its workers’ wellbeing or there is something else?
Actions taken by other American airlines regarding the vaccine mandate may shed some light on the matter.
Back in August Delta Air Lines announced that unvaccinated employees would be forced to pay an extra $200 for the company’s health plan.
Its CEO Ed Bastian revealed that Delta was paying up to $40,000 per hospitalization of employees who have gotten sick with COVID-19 so they needed “to address the financial risk it was creating.”
Other airlines such as Southwest have opted for a softer approach offering vaccinated workers up to 16 hours of extra pay.
On Sept. 9 the White House announced it would demand large businesses to require vaccinations, but it has yet to detail how the plan will be implemented.