A shipbuilder for the United States Navy has suspended the implementation of its Covid-19 vaccine mandate after a large number of employees threatened to quit.
Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) announced that it would no longer be going ahead with its mandate in a letter published on November 16th. The letter, which was written by HII CEO Mike Petters, confirmed that employees will no longer be required to get the Covid-19 vaccine by January 4th, 2022.
The letter stated: “With respect to Ingalls Shipbuilding and Newport News Shipbuilding, our customer has confirmed that our contracts do not include a requirement to implement the [vaccine] mandate. In light of this development, we are hereby suspending the deadline for vaccination, except where specific [HII] Technical Solutions contracts require it.”
Initially, the company announced that all 25,000 employees would have to be fully vaccinated by December 8th, as a “condition of continued employment.” The deadline was later moved to January 2022 before it was ultimately suspended on November 16th.
Despite suspending the mandate, the shipbuilder clarified that it is still “monitoring the fluid situation with [its] shipyard customers.” The company stated that the suspension of the vaccine mandate will be lifted the moment it becomes a contractual requirement and that HII “may choose to implement other measures aimed at improving workforce vaccination rate.”
“We continue to strongly urge vaccination of all employees,” the shipbuilder said.
Currently, mask mandates continue to be in place at all HII facilities. The company did not answer questions about the Covid-19 vaccine being compulsory for new employees before their first day of work.
Additionally, the November 16th letter also said: “Implementation of the federal government’s vaccine mandate has been a complex undertaking. We have not wanted to lose a single employee to the virus, or to the effect of the mandate. We also proceeded in good faith during this time to require vaccination of our workforce to protect their health and safety – and in doing so, also protect our ability to serve our national security customers without disruption.”
However, some employees of the shipbuilding company expressed disappointment following the release of the letter. They say that they feel tricked – as they got the vaccine due to the now-suspended mandate.
Deshawn Royal, an employee at the Newport News Shipyard, said: “They made me get it and then lifted it. I didn’t want to get it, but they said I had to get it – or we were going to get fired. And then they lifted it. [You all] did us wrong.”
Many employees believe that the suspension of the mandate came after workers threatened to quit, which Royal thinks was the case. He said: “You’re gonna lose your people. Not everybody is [going to] get it. It’s not worth a lot of people’s money to get injected with something they don’t want.”
Another employee, Rodney Apop, said that many of his colleagues shared the same sentiment as Royal. He explained that many workers got the vaccine because of the mandate as they didn’t really have a choice, and now that the mandate is gone they wish they did not go ahead with it in the first place.
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