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Raytheon, GE grapple with losing employees over COVID-19 vaccine mandate

Raytheon, based in Waltham, has nearly 15,000 employees in Massachusetts.Jasper Juinen/Bloomberg

As the deadline for the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal contractors looms, the chief executive officer of Raytheon Technologies said the company could “potentially lose several thousand people” who don’t plan to get vaccinated.

Greg Hayes said in an interview with CNBC on Tuesday that 3 percent of the Waltham-based defense contractor’s 125,000-person workforce will likely refuse to get the vaccine before the Dec. 8 deadline. That’s roughly 3,500 people who will be at risk of losing their jobs.

“Now this is a tough thing, but we are preparing for it. We’re out hiring today,” Hayes said. “Frankly, it’s the right thing to do. We need to have people vaccinated to get this pandemic under control.”

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Hayes said more than 80 percent of the company’s workforce is fully vaccinated.

Raytheon told employees on Sept. 15 that they would need to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 1, but a week later, the Biden administration announced the deadline for federal contractors would be Dec. 8.

Hayes said about 7,500 as-yet-unvaccinated employees have indicated that they would be vaccinated by the deadline, and another 3,500 have asked for a religious or medical exemption. (The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has not yet released more information on the broader COVID-19 vaccine mandate that would apply to all private employers with more than 100 employees).

Raytheon declined to provide vaccination status data for its 14,700 employees based in Massachusetts.

The issue facing Raytheon is playing out across the state, as companies that do business with the federal government have less than two months to ensure their workforces are fully vaccinated.

At Boston-based General Electric, the mandate has led to a union fight, with workers claiming GE didn’t give them enough time to bargain over how the policy will play out.

Justin Richards, a business agent for IUE-CWA Local 201, said he thinks more than half of the union’s 1,200 members in Lynn are unvaccinated. They still have questions over what will happen if they don’t meet the deadline, since being fired, laid off, or furloughed would have different impacts on benefits such as health care or severance packages, he said.

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A GE spokesperson said in an e-mail that the company is “complying with the executive order on vaccine mandates, which is not subject to bargaining. We have and will continue to have open discussions with union leadership regarding our COVID protocols, including the recent vaccine mandate, as we have throughout the pandemic.”


Anissa Gardizy can be reached at anissa.gardizy@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @anissagardizy8.