Written by Brenda Nakalema

No Jab, No Job!

The pandemic didn’t just changed how we live, it affected how we work. All at once, people around the globe …

The pandemic didn’t just changed how we live, it affected how we work. All at once, people around the globe found themselves re-defining what qualifies as work, how they work and the hours within which they perform their duties. Despite all these challenges, many hoped that with the easing of lock-downs around the world, life and work would return to normal. A few hoped that life after lock down would simply involve them picking up where they left off, however, with the latest conversations around vaccines, it looks like many might still be in for a new surprise.  Companies around the globe are struggling with the question- what should we do with our unvaccinated work force? The weight of this consideration is not deeper felt anywhere else than in the United States where corporations have applied both hard and soft methods in an attempt to get more of their staff vaccinated.

At the core of the debate are the individuals that refuse to take the jab for various reasons and do not want to be compelled by either the government or the corporations they work for into taking any of the available vaccines. As a result, corporations find themselves between a rock and hard place since the executive order signed into law by U.S President Joe Biden gave them until December 8th to have all their employees vaccinated. Because there is massive pushback from certain employees citing free-will and their right to choose whether or when they would want the vaccine, corporations such as Textron Inc (TXT.N) and Spirit AeroSystems (SPR.N) report roughly half of their 10,000 employees remain unvaccinated even after the presidential directive.  The problem isn’t necessarily that workers are against the vaccine so as much as that they are opposed to having Uncle Sam meddle in their personal affairs to such an extent. Cornell Adams, the head of the local Machinists union district asserted that many workers would be lost as a result of the heavy handed approach adopted by the Biden administration. As if further fueling the tension, the union district has  hired a Texas- based lawyer to assist employees in the preparation of potential lawsuits should their applications for medical exemptions be denied. Despite being a lifelong democrat, Adams was quoted saying, “They’ll never get another vote from me and I’m telling the workers here the same thing”.

Regardless of the negative reaction, the reality is that the clock is ticking for companies that want to continue winning federal contracts- with the new executive order in place, it will be hard for certain companies to remain beneficiaries of lucrative contracts without following suit and laying the down the hammer when it comes to their employees’ vaccination status.

 As if the situation isn’t already tense enough, the implication is that federal contract workers should have received their  last covid- 19 shot within a fortnight prior to the deadline in order to be on the safe side. Because of the three week gap between shots of Pfizer/ BioNTech vaccine, employees must get the first jab by the 3rd of November. If indeed the government stays true to its word, it is no longer possible to choose Moderna’s (MRNA.O) vaccine which is typically given in two doses, four weeks apart.

Forced vaccination illegal, immoral and impractical

Dozens of workers gathered outside the Boeing property In Seattle to protest, claiming that they would rather be escorted off the property come 8th December than be forced to take the vaccine. A veteran Boeing program analyst was quoted saying the mandate is “illegal, immoral and impractical”. The mandate has placed Boeing in precarious situation- the company could lose valuable skilled labor and yet it must enforce the government order. Another company that has chosen to face the situation head- on is the car manufacturer, Mercedes- Benz USA. The company issued a statement demanding full vaccination of all its employees within 90days from the day the statement was issued. The company was one of the early adopters of the policy, having rightly predicted a mandatory order from the government for corporations with over 100 employees.

Whichever side of the spectrum businesses might decide to fall, it is clear that this very divisive issue will be difficult to navigate and might lead to certain companies being dragged into lengthy lawsuits. Regardless, the U.S government seems determined to strictly enforce these directives, and it is yet to be seen just how far the government is willing to go to carry out its mission in the face of such widespread opposition.