Tyson Foods said it would provide 20 hours of paid sick time a year to fully vaccinated employees to enhance benefits for workers willing to receive coronavirus vaccinations.
The new benefit, announced on Friday, followed discussions with the United Food & Commercial Workers, which represents several thousand Tyson workers, over the company’s requirement that all its U.S. workers be vaccinated “as a condition of employment” by Nov. 1. The paid sick leave policy takes effect on Jan. 1, and also applies to all nonunion employees.
Tyson also said fully vaccinated employees could take up to two weeks of paid administrative leave if they tested positive for Covid-19 over the next six months. The company said it would compensate workers for time spent in “educational sessions about the benefits and risks of the Covid vaccines.”
The union initially expressed reservations when Tyson announced the vaccine mandate last month, but applauded the paid sick leave benefit on Friday, saying it was the first national agreement that provides such a benefit to meatpacking workers. Union officials have said providing paid sick time is important so workers can still be paid if they miss work or experience some of the vaccines’ common side effects.
“Vaccine mandates, like all Covid workplace safety policies, must be negotiated with workers to build the trust and strong consensus needed for these safeguards to be effective,” the U.F.C.W. president, Marc Perrone, said in a statement.
On Friday, Tyson said about 90,000, or roughly 75 percent, of its U.S. work force had received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. More than 30,000 workers have been vaccinated since the company announced its mandate in early August.
Tyson said it now had the support of the U.F.C.W. and the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union for its vaccine policies. Together, those unions represent more than 80 percent of the company’s 31,000 unionized employees.
“Getting vaccinated remains the single most effective thing we can do to fight this pandemic and continue to help feed this country and our world,” Johanna Soderstrom, Tyson’s chief human resources officer, said in a statement.
Stuart Appelbaum, president of the retail wholesale union, said the paid sick time agreement with Tyson “is a clear blueprint many other industries can and should follow.”