Logistics providers are continuing their push this week for their employees to get prioritized access to Covid-19 vaccines, saying the workers are critical to keeping supply chains moving despite the challenges of the pandemic.
While federal programs such as Operation Warp Speed may have helped to accelerate the process of developing vaccines to the disease, the rollout of the life-saving medicine has been snarled with delays and complications in many states. Another hurdle has been the peak fulfillment volumes seen in many sectors due to spikes in demand, a boom in e-commerce sales, and the recent holiday season, making it difficult for many warehouse and transportation workers to take time off to get their shots.
Vaccine availability is currently prioritized for the elderly, first responders, medical, and/or school personnel, but logistics and transportation provider Ryder System Inc. said today it is “actively working with industry trade associations and state authorities to have its essential workers prioritized as soon as possible.” In a step to accelerate the process, Ryder has begun paying its employees to get their vaccines. Ryder will pay up to three hours of paid time off (PTO) for workers to get their first shot and an additional three hours for treatments that require a second dose.
While the Miami-based company is not requiring employees to get vaccinated, it said it is following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that people should take the vaccine in order to protect themselves, their coworkers, and everyone around them.
“The health and safety of our employees is our top priority, and we want to provide assurances to our workforce that they don’t need to worry about being penalized either in pay or PTO balance when getting vaccinated,” Ryder Chairman and CEO Robert Sanchez said in a release. “Since the beginning of the pandemic, our team has been committed to creating a safe work environment by implementing sanitation stations and contactless interaction with our customers where possible, as well as paying sick leave to employees who have contracted the virus, and this paid vaccine decision was no different.”
The company has some powerful voices backing its effort from within the federal government itself. On Friday, two commissioners of the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) sent a letter to President Biden reiterating the importance of vaccinating the maritime workforce. “We recommend that this essential workforce be prioritized for vaccinations, and in the interim be given access to rapid testing in order to help minimize workplace disruption, given their critical role in moving medical supplies, personal protective equipment (PPE), and handling what is an unprecedented amount of consumer goods arriving at our gateway ports,” commissioners Carl Bentzel and Daniel Maffei wrote.
The movement is also in line with an international effort to provide vaccines to thousands of maritime crew members worldwide who have been stranded on their ships by travel and quarantine restrictions imposed during the pandemic.
Danish trade group the Global Maritime Forum says that situation is leading to crew fatigue and an increased risk of maritime incidents, and has launched an initiative called the “Neptune Declaration on Seafarer Wellbeing and Crew Change,” calling for solutions. Signed by more than 450 companies and organizations across the maritime value chain, the declaration seeks to: recognize seafarers as key workers and give them priority access to Covid-19 vaccines; implement health protocols based on existing best practices; increase collaboration between ship operators and charterers to facilitate crew changes; and ensure air connectivity between maritime hubs for seafarers.
Greek bulk cargo handler Star Bulk Carriers Corp. on Thursday said it had joined the movement, calling the situation a “humanitarian crisis" that remains unresolved despite efforts by international organizations, unions, companies, and governments. “Star Bulk is committed to take action to help resolve this humanitarian crisis, recognizing the shared responsibility of all parties in the maritime chain to protect the rights and well-being of our seafarers,” Star Bulk CEO Petros Pappas said in a release. “The Neptune Declaration is in line with our company’s values on Human Rights and Labor which are driven by the principles of the United Nations Global Compact, to which Star Bulk is a signatory.”