‘Invasive and Really Violent’: Danish Trade Unions Berate Shipping Giant Maersk Over Vax Mandate

While Maersk hailed vaccines as effective and safe and pledged to make life “as difficult as possible” for those unvaccinated, fellow captains of Danish industry don’t plan to introduce vaccine mandates even despite a record COVID spike in the Scandinavian country.

Danish transport giant Maersk, Denmark’s largest company and the world’s biggest container shipping operator, is to introduce a requirement for its staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to be able to work from the company’s offices.

As Maersk CEO Søren Skou told the newspaper Berlingske, the requirement will be introduced “within the next three months”.

Maersk is the first major Danish company to apply a vaccination mandate. Apart from Denmark proper, the same policy will apply in some of its offices across the globe, but will exempt countries where vaccine supplies are limited.

“We have to make it as difficult as possible for those who are not vaccinated and require tests all the time. But we can’t make a global rule on this”, Skou told Berlingske, while suggesting that Maersk is keen to help in locations where it is harder to get staff to accept vaccination – in compliance with local laws and trade union agreements.

According to Skou, the company decided to implement the mandate because the effectiveness and safety of the COVID-19 vaccines are “well-known”.

The vaccine mandate, however, triggered negative reactions from several Danish trade unions, despite a high overall level of vaccination (75 percent) in the Nordic country.

The Maersk requirement is way over the line, the trade union HK said, which instead calls for test requirements. HK slammed the vaccine requirement as “invasive for the employee” and “really violent” and discouraged Maersk, or any other Danish companies, from introducing it.

“It is very un-Danish to resort to the heaviest tool in the box in a situation where we have to call for restraint, and where we in Denmark have a high vaccine percentage”, HK chair Anja Jensen told TV2.

Danish engineers’ trade union IDA flatly said it doesn’t support companies requiring on-site staff to be vaccinated.

“It’s not reasonable to demand you must be vaccinated to be able to come to work. It’s reasonable to demand you are healthy”, IDA’s chairman Thomas Damkjær Petersen ventured. “Therefore, our recommendation is that you look after yourself and your colleagues. And if you have symptoms of corona, you should stay home and get tested”, Petersen added.

Djøf, another trade union, also said it couldn’t accept either a test or vaccination mandate for its members and noted that Denmark has no laws law in place that enable employers to demand staff to be vaccinated.

Maersk is Denmark’s biggest company with over 80,000 employees in 130 countries. It is also the dominant company in container shipping worldwide with a market share of 17 percent.

However, fellow captains of Danish industry – Novo Nordisk, Lego, and Ørsted – said they won’t require their employees to produce proof of vaccination to attend work.

Despite being heavily vaccinated, Denmark, which in early September discarded all restrictions and demoted COVID-19 from a “society-critical disease”, is seeing another wave with record infection rates.

Wednesday’s infection figure of 2,598 was the highest since 30 December 2020. The spike in both infection cases and hospitalisations has spurred medical professionals to recommend the return of mask mandates and COVID-19 passports.

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