The company had initially imposed a December deadline but extended it to January when the federal guidance was handed down.
Mike Petters, President and CEO of Huntington Ingalls Shipbuilding, the parent company that owns the Ingalls shipyard in Pascagoula, released a memo on Tuesday saying the company is suspending its deadline for employees to receive the COVID vaccine.
This is good news for the thousands of employees that were nearing the deadline to receive the vaccine or face termination. Protests have been periodic over the last few months, with employees, their families and community supporters rallying to challenge what can only be described as federal overreach.
The company had been under the gun by the Biden Administration’s federal vaccine mandate as it is a federal contractor. It builds and repairs U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
However, Petters now says their “customer” – the federal government – is not requiring them to implement the mandate as a requirement for their contract.
“Importantly, with respect to Ingalls Shipbuilding and Newport News Shipbuilding, our customer has confirmed that our contracts do not include a requirement to implement the mandate,” Petters tells employees. “Technical Solutions employees are in a different situation and face varied requirements depending on the particular contract.”
Petters says they are monitoring the “fluid situation closely,” a reference to the pending litigation the Biden Administration is now facing from private businesses and states, including Mississippi. He adds that if the mandate becomes a contractual requirement, they will proceed accordingly.
“We have not wanted to lose a single employee to the virus, or to the effect of the mandate,” Petters says, adding that he strongly encourages employees to get vaccinated. He notes that the company may choose to implement other measures aimed at improving its workforce vaccination rate in the future.
Earlier this month, Ingalls Shipbuilding, Mississippi’s largest federal contractor, reported that their COVID vaccination rate among employees was 77%. According to their company website, the Pascagoula-based company employs 11,500 workers. That would mean over 2,500 workers were in jeopardy of losing their jobs if they did not receive a COVID vaccine come January.