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Qantas has ordered all staff to be vaccinated – in line with United Airlines, Delta, Hawaiian and other carriers – but a major Australian union has slammed the Qantas move as a PR stunt, claiming workers are “having difficulty getting access to the vaccine and in organising vaccination ahead of roster changes with the potential of losing work”.

Qantas said its vaccine decision was part of its commitment to safety.

Frontline employees of Qantas and Jetstar – including cabin crew, pilots and airport workers – will need to be fully vaccinated by 15 November 2021 and all other employees by 31 March 2022. There will be exemptions for those who are unable for documented medical reasons to be vaccinated, “which is expected to be very rare”.

Qantas said its policy followed consultation with Qantas and Jetstar employees including a survey sent to 22,000 people to seek their views on vaccination.

The 12,000 responses received makes it “one of the biggest single surveys on this topic in Australia”, Qantas stated. The results showed that of those who responded:

  • 89% had already been vaccinated or are planning to be.
  • 4% were unwilling or unable to get the jab.
  • Around three-quarters think it should be a requirement for all employees to be vaccinated and would be concerned if other employees in the workplace weren’t vaccinated.

Thousands of aviation workers supporting international flights in New South Wales, South Australia and New Zealand are already required to be vaccinated by those jurisdictions. Multiple airlines around the world have also made it a requirement.

Announcing the policy, Qantas Group chief executive Alan Joyce said: “Having a fully vaccinated workforce will safeguard our people against the virus but also protect our customers and the communities we fly to.

“One crew member can fly into multiple cities and come into contact with thousands of people in a single day. Making sure they are vaccinated given the potential of this virus to spread is so important and I think it’s the kind of safety leadership people would expect from us.

“We provide an essential service, so this will help guard against the disruptions that can be caused by just one positive Covid-case shutting down a freight facility or airport terminal,” Joyce said.

“It’s clear that vaccinations are the only way to end the cycle of lockdowns and border closures and for a lot of Qantas and Jetstar employees that means getting back to work again. This was one of the largest responses to any survey we’ve conducted, even with thousands of our people stood down, which shows just how important this is for them.

“Since vaccines became available, we’ve strongly encouraged all of our people to get the jab and are offering paid time off to get it done. We were really pleased to see from the survey that more than three quarters of those who responded have already rolled up their sleeve at least once and 60% have had both jabs.

“Many of our people said they would feel concerned about working with unvaccinated colleagues, which is something that many workplaces across the country are grappling with.

“We understand there will be a very small number of people who decide not to get the vaccine, and that’s their right, but it’s our responsibility to provide the safest possible environment for our employees and for our customers,” Joyce added.

Further discussions will take place with employees, their health and safety representatives and unions over the coming weeks on the detail of the policy, including how medical exemptions will be applied.

In a separate survey of more than 1000 Qantas customers, 92% said they expect Qantas crew to be fully vaccinated.


Almost 12,000 responses to survey, representing 60% of Australian-based Qantas Group employees.

  • 89% have had at least one vaccine dose or plan to be vaccinated
    • 77% have had at least one dose
    • 60% are fully vaccinated
    • 12% are booked or planning to book
  • 7% undecided or preferred not to say
  • 4% are unwilling or unable to get the vaccine

Qantas issued “verbatim comments from employees in support of vaccinations”:

  • It should be compulsory as a condition for employment.
  • I don’t want to work with anyone that has not had it. Why should I come to work and have other co-workers that come make me sick?
  • My employer has a duty of care. All employees need to be safe in the workplace. All employees walk past each other. We all have to be safe.
  • It is not something I would have normally done but happy to do for a safe workplace and if it keeps me and my family safe.
  • I fully support everyone being vaccinated so we can open the domestic and international borders again.


The Transport Workers Union, however, said Qantas had failed to consult with workers or address any of their concerns about losing pay or difficulties accessing the vaccine.

According to the union: “A recent survey of 800 aviation workers showed only one third have been fully vaccinated with many workers saying they were having difficulty getting access to the vaccine and in organising vaccination ahead of roster changes with the potential of losing work.

“A majority of those vaccinated organised the shot themselves (70%), with just 30% assisted by their employer.”

TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine called upon Qantas to urgently meet with workers and unions “to ensure workers will not risk losing their jobs or any pay”.

“Qantas has jumped the gun yet again ahead of the Attorney General’s roundtable today of ACTU and employer associations on vaccination take up,” Kaine said yesterday.

“This snap announcement is completely void of a plan to support workers to get vaccinated by November. Workers have spoken out about the difficulties they’ve faced accessing the vaccine, but Qantas has refused to listen. Qantas’ own survey shows vaccine hesitancy is extremely low, yet Qantas has pushed ahead with another unilateral decision that will heap unnecessary stress onto workers.

“Qantas knows that workers are worried about losing out on pay or shifts that could earn them penalty rates while trying to get vaccinated and recovering from side effects. This means nothing to Alan Joyce, who enjoyed an $11 million pay packet last year but means everything to workers who’ve been dragged through hell and battled with uncertainty and the prospect of financial ruin over the last 18 months.

“This is a disproportionate backflip from Qantas’ harmful downplaying the virus in 2020 which saw workers punished for raising safety concerns and a Covid cluster spread, putting a worker in intensive care.

“If Qantas truly had health and safety in mind, it would be offering support to workers and ensuring rapid testing of passengers and crew is put in place to prevent the risk of spread on planes. After outsourcing all of its ground work, Qantas has created safety and security gaps in its own chain of workers getting planes in the air.

“While the Federal Government has refused to hold Qantas to account for any of its heartless and dictatorial decision making over the last year, including the illegal outsourcing of 2000 workers, Alan Joyce has taken it upon himself to rule with an iron fist,” Kaine said.

The TWU gave some comments about vaccine access from the aviation worker survey:

One cabin crew respondent said: “I travelled two hours each way to get my shots – total four hours additional driving on top of a 10-hour work day and waking up that morning at 2.30am. After getting the vaccine I got home at 11pm that day. Unbelievably exhausting.”

A cabin crew worker echoed this problem: “Most cabin crew I have spoken to who weren’t vaccinated is because it was too far from home to travel. Also I had to try and time my shots and bid for days off which was very stressful and annoying that I had to use my bids to get the day off and not guaranteed. The company should assist cabin crew with organised time off to get the shot.”

“The government should be facilitating employers of front-line workers, provision and access for staff vaccinations,” said a cabin crew worker.

Another called for “vaccine clinics at airports for border and transport workers. Rostering protocols amended to allow one to book in for a vaccine and not have to cancel the appointment due to a duty change.”

A pilot called for “time off for vaccine appointment that is booked blindly without a roster…. frontline crew would have to cancel from a rostered trip to attend a vaccination appointment made weeks ago.”

A ground crew worker said: “I’m a casual and only get a roster a few days in advance. It’s impossible to book a time to be vaccinated without risking losing a day’s pay.”

Edited by Peter Needham