Auckland Airport will only hire staff vaccinated against Covid-19 in future and existing frontline staff without the jab face losing their jobs.
In a move it says will help strengthen New Zealand's defence against the spread of Covid-19, it has drafted new employment contracts for any future employees joining the company to include a vaccine requirement, including those working in non-front-line roles.
General manager corporate services Mary-Liz Tuck said the vaccination requirement would be added to standard employment terms in contracts which cover convictions and drug use. Some emergency service staff already have to have hepatitis jabs before getting a job at the airport.
"We accept that views will differ and not everyone will agree with our position, but the safety and wellbeing of our people comes first, and we will continue to make the decisions that we think are right to protect our people and the community from the spread of Covid-19."
And she said the spread of the Delta variant means Auckland Airport had decided to bring forward the requirement for its front-line workers to be vaccinated from September 30 to August 31.
And she says vaccinations rates among its existing 271 front line staff are extremely high, but those who didn't meet a deadline for a government vaccination order could lose their jobs.
Airport staff have been able to take up the vaccination since early February and all of its front-line workers that are on-shift have now been vaccinated, with a small number awaiting their second doses.
Three front-line staff members will be rostered on only after they've had vaccinations over the coming week.
"If they don't we have looked at alternate duties. We have been unable to find alternate duties at the moment for the people but we will keep on looking. At the end of the day if we can't find alternate duties and these are specialist roles and we're unable to find them then their employment will end."
Tuck said the company was quite prepared to go to court.
"We fully support the Government's position on vaccines as an organisation that works at the frontline of the border. We see vaccinations as the way out of the pandemic and can't talk about specifics of cases but we will be prepared. I wouldn't be surprised if we had a court case."
Vaccinations were one of the best tools to manage this pandemic and its impact.
More than 90 per cent of our frontline workers were vaccinated within the first eight weeks of Covid-19 vaccinations becoming available in February.
"As we watch the spread of new variants such as Delta, the safety and wellbeing of our people and community continues to come first – particularly our front-line and specialist emergency workers who are key to keeping the airport running safely," Tuck said.
She said presentations from medical experts and one-on-one conversations with staff had been important in informing those with reservations about the Covid jab.
This week Air New Zealand announced it was consulting on adopting the Government's mandatory order on vaccination for front-line border workers to more than 4000 of its own staff involved in roles such as baggage handling.
Already about 1700 aircrew and customer-facing staff are covered by the government order, which requires the first vaccination by September 30 and a second one six weeks later.
Union E tū says while it believes vaccinations are the way out of the pandemic it has concerns about how many roles there were for unvaccinated Air NZ workers to be redeployed to.
Australian airlines Qantas and Virgin Australia are also taking a tougher line on unvaccinated staff.