BREMERTON – Workers at the Puget Sound Shipyard, Kitsap County’s largest employer, must be vaccinated against COVID-19 by November 22 or risk being made redundant unless they can prove an exemption medical or religious.
Captain Jip Mosman, commander of the shipyard, told employees this week that there are still uncertainties about the exemptions but that the executive order signed by President Biden and interpreted by Navy officials is clear.
“The only way for someone to remain employed at the PSNS and the IMF is to get vaccinated or be exempted on a legitimate medical or religious basis,” Mosman wrote in a message to all employees. “… If an employee does not qualify for one of these two exemptions and remains unvaccinated, a disciplinary process will begin.”
The latest available data shows that around half of the shipyard‘s workforce – which numbers around 15,000 people – are vaccinated. Biden’s order included not only federal workers, but also contractors and workers in companies with more than 100 employees.
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Shipyard unions, including the Bremerton Metal Trades Council and the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, Local 12, are currently engaged in negotiations with shipyard leaders over the vaccine mandate.
Shipyard workers and all federal employees must be fully immunized by November 22, unless they qualify for an exemption. This means they must start the first of two Pfizer shots by October 18, the first of Moderna’s two shots by October 11, or receive the one shot dose from Johnson and Johnson by November 8 for full protection. before 22.
Mosman stressed that shipyard workers who missed the Nov. 22 deadline will not be fired, but that a disciplinary process “up to and including dismissal” would ensue.
“However, due process rights will be respected,” he wrote.
Shipyard officials have said in recent guidelines that workers who believe they are qualified for a medical exemption should “obtain documents from a health care provider to explain the medical reason” they cannot. to get vaccinated. It should explain “how long the condition should last, so that the agency can process” the request.
Shipyard officials are still awaiting advice on religious exemptions.
Frequent testing for those declared exempt will be necessary, although the frequency remains to be determined, Mosman said.
The vaccine requirement worries Tyler Miller, a Navy veteran who works at the Trident Refit Facility at Kitsap-Bangor Naval Base. Miller said his job could be in danger because he will not disclose to his employer if he has been vaccinated.
Miller said there are still a lot of uncertainties in the process.
“There are so many variables and they are running out of time,” he said.
On Sunday at the state capital in Olympia, Miller helps organize a rally for state employees affected by a similar mandate, that of Governor Jay Inslee, to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Miller said the goal is to increase pressure on the governor to convene a special session to consider such warrants.
“No one’s livelihood should be held hostage” because of the vaccine, he said.
Mosman, meanwhile, pledged to support the vaccine, calling it “our most effective defense against this deadly virus.”
“Personally, I received the vaccine to support my family, my co-workers and my community and not just me,” he wrote. “The impact of the disease is real, whether it’s friends, family, co-workers or the shipyard’s mission.”
Josh Farley is a reporter covering the Army and Health Care for the Kitsap Sun. He can be reached at 360-792-9227, [email protected] or on Twitter at @joshfarley.