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Employees of Canada’s federally regulated air, marine and rail transportation sectors face suspension and dismissal after an unspecified 'phase-in period' if they do not receive both doses of the vaccine, said the government, which set Oct. 30 as the date on which companies must establish a policy.DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

Air Canada and WestJet Airlines Ltd. say almost all their employees have received two COVID-19 vaccinations ahead of an Oct. 30 deadline set by the airlines and the federal government.

Air Canada will not need to cancel flights or face a crew shortage because more than 95 per cent of its 27,000 employees has had both inoculations for COVID-19, said Peter Fitzpatrick, an Air Canada spokesman. Calgary-based WestJet Airlines Ltd. said more than 98 per cent of its mainline carrier and discount Swoop division workforce is vaccinated.

“Employees who failed to achieve full vaccination status by Oct. 30, 2021, face unpaid leave and termination of employment,” said Morgan Bell, a spokeswoman for WestJet.

Employees of Canada’s federally regulated air, marine and rail transportation sectors face suspension and dismissal after an unspecified “phase-in period” if they do not receive both doses of the vaccine, said the government, which set Oct. 30 as the date on which companies must establish a policy. The vaccine policy also applies to passengers travelling by plane, air or ship.

Mr. Fitzpatrick said Air Canada is reviewing requests to be exempt from the vaccinations, “but those who do not qualify for an exemption and are not vaccinated will be placed on unpaid leave and, after six months, their continuing employment relationship with Air Canada will be reassessed.”

The Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents flight attendants and other workers at Canada’s airlines, said it supports the law that requires employees get vaccinated but does not track the number that do. “We believe based on overall numbers that uptake has been very high and we do not anticipate large-scale disruptions in the workforce as a result of government or employer policies,” said Hugh Pouliot, a CUPE spokesman.

“CUPE believes everyone who can be vaccinated should be,” he said. “Most airlines released policies in August to correspond to the Liberals’ pre-election announcement so our members have been aware for some time that, one way or another, they would need to be fully vaccinated in order to keep working. The employer policies are in response to a legal mandate from the federal government, so they are not optional – it is the law of the land.”

More than 98 per cent of Air Canada’s 3,600 pilots have been vaccinated, according to the Air Canada Pilots Association, which says it is working to protect employees who do not get vaccinated for legitimate reasons.

The deadline for vaccinations at Canadian National Railway Co. is Nov. 15. CN spokesman Mathieu Gaudreault said the “vast majority” of the railway’s 23,700 employees have had their shots.

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