Aeroflot suspends six unvaccinated pilots – Updated with Aeroflot answer

Aeroflot suspended at least six pilots after they refused to take COVID-19 shots. 

Russia’s flag carrier Aeroflot suspended six flight crew members, sending them either on unpaid leave or voluntary unpaid vacation, for refusing to get vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus, an airline’s spokesperson told AeroTime.

“Aeroflot suspended from duties six pilots and sent them to unpaid leave for refusing to get vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus,” an Aeroflot spokesperson told AeroTime, adding “75%, or over 13,000 Aeroflot employees are fully vaccinated up to date. […] In a wider context, in Russia, vaccination of at least 60% of a company’s staff is mandatory for certain industries, including transport. People with medical contraindications are exempt.”

Such a move was met with significant dissatisfaction by the employee’s trade union. In defense of the suspended pilots, Sheremetyevsk Flight Crew Union appealed to Mikhail Poluboyarinov, the chief executive officer of Aeroflot, asking to reverse the decision. 

In a public letter dated September 6, 2021, the pilots union argue that the suspension should be annulled “since vaccinated people can also get sick and be carriers of COVID-19”.The union also warned the move might create some “social tensions” among the airline’s employees and might push pilots to leave the company permanently. No other Russian carriers had made similar suspensions, it added.  

“So far, suspension and payroll orders have been issued against some of the abandoned pilots, and thus deprived their families of their livelihood,” was written in the letter. “In addition, unvaccinated employees of other departments of PJSC Aeroflot continue to work, which is discrimination.” 

No similar penalties have been applied for unvaccinated cabin crew or maintenance staff of the airline yet, according to the union’s president Igor Deldyuzhov. 

In June 2020, the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection of Russia warned that some employees working in particular industries, who refuse to get vaccinated against the COVID-19, could be forced to take unpaid leave. Even though the local vaccination campaign is considered voluntary, the government urged some businesses, including the service industry, to ensure at least 60% of the workforce get vaccinated. 

Following the recommendations, Aeroflot issued Order No.177, in which the air carrier described the rules for crew vaccination. The airline reserved a right to consider “the suspension of employees from work”. 

Updated with Aeroflot answer – 9/8/2021, 11:04 (EET)

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