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Opposition to compulsory vaccination at Swiss Air growing

Swiss Air now requires that its employees be vaccinated by mid-November, but not everyone agrees. Several hundred employees have formed a group demanding more detailed clarifications because the vaccination could be a threat to flight safety.

Published: September 5, 2021, 10:11 am

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    Swiss Air’s flying personnel will soon be subject to mandatory vaccination. The company justified this move saying that the entry regulations abroad sometimes require a vaccination. But much is still unclear. The Swiss emeritus law professor Thomas Geiser, an expert in labor law, expressed concern about whether the demand was as easy to enforce as Swiss Air believes it is.

    A group of Swiss employees has also been campaigning against the compulsory vaccination. The pilot known as PF [name known to the editors], who represents the group and, like everyone else, wants to remain anonymous, talked to the media about it for the first time. He said that up until a few days ago there were over 200 employees, but since then many more have joined the group against mandatory vaccination. Officially, there is now talk of “several hundred employees”, including mainly flight personnel.

    Concern about flight safety

    They are primarily concerned about the many unanswered questions about vaccination and its possible effects. “At the moment we cannot simply rule out that the vaccination could endanger flight safety,” said PF. According to him, possible side effects such as thrombosis or a blood clot could be fatal for flight operations and must be further clarified. Swiss Air has an obligation to dispel these concerns. “But anyone who is currently asking questions is only repeatedly referred to facts and figures from the Federal Office of Public Health, even though there is sufficient evidence from other medical sources that indicate possible dangers.”

    According to their own statements, the group does not want to operate a total opposition to the vaccination, but rather to seek dialogue. There were definitely ways to avoid a general vaccination requirement, said the pilot. “On European routes, for example, there are only a few flights with subsequent entry. One could certainly find individual solutions instead of vaccinating everyone across the board.”

    Fear of reprisals

    According to PF and his colleagues, the problem is: Nobody dares to speak to management directly, individual employees are afraid for their job. That is why they networked as a group and are considering contacting the Swiss Air management through an external third party or a lawyer as a spokesperson. In the meantime, the airline has been informed of the existence of the group, but a dialogue has not started.

    The opponents of a general vaccination requirement at Swiss Air have set up a website to inform and network with other interested parties. The members of the group therefore include both unvaccinated and vaccinated employees who do not agree to a general vaccination requirement.

    Their website noted: “This platform serves as an anonymous point of contact where like-minded people can get in touch. Here we can work together to clarify the open questions. Together, we can manage to reconcile the interests of the company, the authorities and the employees and, above all, make an important contribution to maintaining aviation safety.”

    According to PF, Swiss Air pretends that there was a high level of acceptance for the mandatory vaccination within the company, claiming  a rate of “85 percent approval” for the notion. But that should be put into perspective. This number refers to an article which was published internally. The company maintained that 85 percent had agreed because they had read the statement. “This is a very one-sided platform, voices to the contrary are partially deleted, and hardly anyone dares to express criticism,” said PF.

    What happens to the unvaccinated?

    The group now demands that a vaccination decision remain an individual one, and that whoever speaks out against it should not have to suffer any negative effects. Swiss Air however announced that everyone had to be vaccinated by November 15. But what if the opposite happened? The outcome of this scenario was not communicated to its workforce.

    The pilot also wanted to know what happened to the people who had been vaccinated in January. Would they have to come for the third booster injection? In addition: “So far it has not been announced what this vaccination requirement will include. Is this obligation fixed for the long term, based on a process that has not yet been checked, tested or approved?”

    He said it felt like a “David versus Goliath” battle even though the group represents the interests of the company by worrying about flight safety: “We just want our safety and that of our passengers to be guaranteed.” It was indeed questionable whether there was an operational need for mandatory vaccination, especially in terms of the potential risks it could pose. Currently, their labour union has not been very supportive either, because it believes that mandatory vaccination was legally justifiable.

    The group specifically called for an “expert neutral assessment” of the possible effects of the vaccination on flight safety since there are enough doctors outside the Swiss Federal Office for Public Health (FOPH) who have valid concerns about the long-term effects of the vaccination.

    Upon request, Swiss Air announced that it was aware of the website and that an anonymous group had sent the company a letter. “We are happy to talk to you,” said the media office. They appreciate honest feedback and freedom of expression, “even if a topic is controversial.” But the introduction of the mandatory vaccination was still planned for November 15.

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