The largest U.S. naval shipbuilder is mandating that all its employees complete a COVID-19 vaccine regimen by early December, according to a company memo reviewed by USNI News.
To adhere to White House guidelines, by Dec. 8, all 44,000 Huntington Ingalls Industries employees must be fully immunized, according to the internal message from HII chief operating officer Chris Kastner.
“While we are discussing the effects of this mandate with our union partners, it will be a condition of continued employment for our workforce to be fully vaccinated by the above date. We are communicating this to you as clearly and as quickly as possible so that you can take the necessary steps to meet the deadline,” Kastner wrote in the note to employees.
Kastner said “fully vaccinated” is defined as “two weeks have passed since your last vaccine dose,” meaning employees must receive the second shot of a two-dose regimen no later than Nov. 24. Employees must receive the first shot of a two-dose regimen by Oct. 27 to meet the timeline, Kastner noted.
HII has two main yards that build ships for the Navy – Newport News Shipbuilding in Newport News, Va., and Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Miss. HII builds submarines and aircraft carriers in Virginia and amphibious ships and destroyers in Mississippi. HII also has a 7,000 person Technical Solutions division headquartered in Newport News that includes its recent unmanned technologies aquistions.
The move comes after the White House issued updated COVID-19 guidance last week mandating that all federal contractors receive the vaccine.
“Covered contractors must ensure that all of their covered employees are fully vaccinated for COVID-19, unless the employee is legally entitled to an accommodation. Covered contractor employees must be fully vaccinated no later than December 8, 2021,” according to Sept. 24 guidance from the Biden administration.
“After that date, all covered contractor employees must be fully vaccinated by the first day of the period of performance on a newly awarded covered contract, and by the first day of the period of performance on an exercised option or extended or renewed contract when the clause has been incorporated into the covered contract,” the guidance continues. “Contractor employees working on a covered contract from their residence also must comply with the vaccination requirement for covered contractor employees.”
In the message to HII employees, Kastner said division heads will soon provide employees with more information about how they will adhere to the vaccine mandate.
“Our guiding priorities at HII in responding to this requirement are two-fold: we are committed 1) to promoting and protecting the health and safety of our employees, their families and their communities, and 2) to continuing to serve our customers and the vital national security interests of our country without disruption, as an essential contributor to the nation’s critical infrastructure,” Kastner wrote.
Major naval shipyards across the country have for months been promoting vaccines to their workforce to ensure employees are protected from COVID-19.
A spokesperson for General Dynamics – which has yards in Maine, Connecticut, Rhode Island and California – said it had no announcements to share. Fincantieri Marinette Marine – which is located in Wisconsin and builds Littoral Combat Ships and the new Constellation-class frigates – has not made any changes to how the company is handling vaccines for shipyard workers, a company spokesperson told USNI News. A spokesperson for Austal USA, which builds the Independence-class LCS and the Expeditionary Fast Transport, said the company is reviewing the guidance.
Approximately half of the employees of General Dynamics Electric Boat – the GD subsidiary that builds submarines in Groton, Conn., – and Marinette Marine are vaccinated, Defense One reported on Sept. 23.