NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) – Huntington Ingalls President and CEO Mike Petters issued a letter to his workers following President Joe Biden’s announcement Thursday that employers with 100 or more workers need to require COVID-19 vaccines or weekly testing.
Biden signed two executive orders related to his six-point plan to curb the spread of COVID-19. It also requires the vaccine for the vast majority of federal workers and contractors.
During Thursday’s announcement, the president also encouraged unvaccinated people to do their part.
Huntington Ingalls is still assessing and evaluating the details of the new mandate to determine how the company can help unvaccinated workers meet the requirement as efficiently as possible, Petters said in his letter.
Huntington Ingalls operates Newport News Shipbuilding, one of the largest employers in Hampton Roads.
President of Newport News Shipbuilding Jennifer Boykin also issued a statement in reply to Biden’s announcement.
“We recognize this news may be stressful and concerning to many of you, and I want to remind all shipbuilders about the HERO Program (hiihero.com using access code: Huntington Ingalls), which is a free benefit to NNS employees and their families. HERO has professional counselors who are experienced with helping work through life’s challenges,” Boykin said in her statement, which was also posted to Facebook. “We are evaluating the impact this will have on our operations, and our priorities will continue to focus on keeping our shipbuilders safe and supporting our Navy customer. In anticipation of this directive, we have been developing a vaccination mandate plan that will meet the government’s requirements and keep safety at the forefront.”
Boykin asked employees for patience, strength and focus and said the company would communicate its next steps as soon as they are finalized.
Some employees voiced their concerns in comments on social media about the Huntington Ingalls announcement.
One person commented: “We will NOT comply” You will have to fire us. Will you fire an engineer with 24 years experience who has NATURAL antibodies?!?!? Wait for the courts to settle this! You know as well as your employees that it is unconditional!”
Fully vaccinated Newport News Shipbuilding employees are eligible to participate in a series of raffles, which include reserved parking spots, as well as bonuses. After Biden’s announcement, the company said it is pushing back the dates of the raffles to give shipbuilders more time to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
The new dates and prizes are as follows:
- October 15: $7,500
- October 22: $5,000
- October 29: $3,750
- November 5: $3,750
- November 12: $2,500
- November 19: $2,500
Employees selected in the raffle will be required to present their vaccination cards in order to claim their prizes.