Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Ford to require COVID vaccines for 'most' US salaried employees

The Detroit News (TNS)

Ford Motor Co. will require most U.S. salaried employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Dec. 8 or be put on unpaid leave, a move likely to affect return-to-work policies at other employers.

"The health and safety of our workforce remains our top priority and we have been very encouraged by the support of our employees to comply with our protocols, including the more than 84-percent of U.S. salaried employees who are already vaccinated," spokesperson Marisa Bradley said in a statement.

The Dec. 8 deadline aligns with a federal mandate for government contractors to ensure their employees are vaccinated. Ford's announcement also precedes a final version of President Joe Biden's vaccine-or-test mandate for businesses with more than 100 employees, which is expected to be released as early as Thursday.

"We are continuing to evaluate our policy for employees in our manufacturing locations, parts depots and Ford Credit, including analyzing federal and collective bargaining requirements," Bradley said. Employees who can't get the vaccine for religious or medical reasons will be eligible for an exemption.

Most of Ford's hourly workers will be subject to the guidelines for large businesses that will soon be released. Those requirements will be subject to bargaining with the UAW, Ford spokesperson Monique Brentley said. The United Auto Workers has advised members to get vaccinated but has opposed a vaccine mandate.

"Our position continues to be that we strongly encourage members to get vaccinated but understand that there are reasons such as health-related or religious reasons that they can't," UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg said in a statement Wednesday.

Ford isn't the first automaker to notify its U.S. employees that they must get vaccinated. Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz USA, based in Atlanta, is requiring employees be vaccinated by Jan. 4.

General Motors Co. did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether it is considering a similar rule. Neither GM or Stellantis NV are requiring employees to be vaccinated yet, though all three Detroit automakers have a vaccine mandate in place for their workers in Canada.

Toyota Motor Corp. declined to comment on its policies, and Honda Motor Co., and Volkswagen AG could not immediately be reached for comment.

Subaru of Indiana Automotive spokesman Craig Koven said in a statement: "While we have strongly encouraged our associates to get vaccinated for COVID-19 and have hosted many on-site vaccination clinics, it is not mandated at this time. Those who have not been vaccinated are required to continue wearing a mask inside our facilities."

Stellantis pointed The Detroit News to a questionnaire employees and visitors are required to complete when entering company facilities, which includes a question about whether they have been vaccinated.

"Since vaccines have become available, Stellantis has continued to strongly advocate for our employees to get vaccinated," spokeswoman Jodi Tinson said in a statement. "As part of our protocol, all U.S. employees have been asked to self-certify their vaccination status since spring. We are continuing to monitor the situation and, in partnership with the UAW, evaluating additional actions to take in the best interest of employee health and safety."

The Canadian autoworker union Unifor is pushing back on the company's mandate in Canada, sending a letter to Stellantis asking that the rollout be paused.

"Our position is that Stellantis should follow other workplaces in a manufacturing setting that have vaccination policies that offer safe alternative options for those who choose not to vaccinate," Dave Cassidy, president of Unifor Local 444 in Windsor, where the automaker assembles Chrysler minivans, wrote in a letter to members. "These type of policies also don't result in members being terminated or forced out on unpaid leave."