Ford to become first US automaker to mandate vaccines for 30,000+ workers

Ford Motor is set to become the first major US-based carmaker to require employees to be vaccinated, the company told staff in a message, though the mandate must still be negotiated with unionized workers at the firm.

The company announced the move in a note to its 32,000 or so salaried employees on Wednesday, spokeswoman Monique Brentley confirmed to CNBC, telling them they must be vaccinated by December 8 or be placed on unpaid leave.

“The goal is to achieve [the] highest possible vaccination rate without severe consequences to any employee,” Brentley said, noting that the company will offer religious and medical exemptions to qualifying workers. 

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% of US salaried employees who are already vaccinated.

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After a 30-day period following the deadline, however, those who refuse to take the jab and do not obtain an exemption could have their jobs terminated. 

Ford’s unionized employees will not immediately fall under the mandate, United Auto Workers spokesman Brian Rothenberg told CNN. The UAW represents more than 56,000 employees at the company, many of whom are assembly-line workers. 

Rothenberg also confirmed that the mandate would have to be settled with collective-bargaining requirements with the UAW before it could apply to union shops. 

While the US’ ‘Big Three’ automakers – Ford, General Motors and Stellantis (formerly Fiat Chrysler) – have each mandated vaccines for their Canadian workforces, Ford is the first to do so on the US side of the border. 

The move comes after the Joe Biden administration declared that it would require any company with more than 100 employees to vaccinate their workers, affecting some 100 million Americans. The president previously mandated the jab for federal employees, and later contractors, but has since expanded the measure, saying the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) would enforce the mandate on companies.

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© Reuters / Elizabeth Frantz
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