Tyson Foods, the US food group, has struck a deal with union officials over the company’s plans to require its domestic workers are vaccinated.

In August, Tyson announced a vaccine mandate for its US workforce, unless employees have religious or medical exemptions. Staff based at office locations will have to have had the jabs by 1 October. Tyson said all other employees would need to be vaccinated by 1 November, subject to talks with unions.

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On Friday (3 September), the Jimmy Dean sausages maker said it had received the backing of two unions, The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) and the affiliated Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), that represent more than 80% of its US staff who are unionised.

“We’re pleased that the UFCW and RWDSU are joining us in taking this important step,” Johanna Söderström, Tyson’s chief human resources officer, said. “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.”

More than 75% of Tyson’s US workforce have had at least one dose of the jab, the company says.

After the talks with unions, Tyson is to provide more benefits to fully vaccinated staff. One new benefit for employees will see workers start earning up to 20 hours of paid sick leave a year from 1 January. The company is also giving double-jabbed workers US$200 as “a thank you”, it said.

The UFCW union said the deal on sick pay was “the first national agreement to provide paid sick leave to American meatpacking workers”.

UFCW international president Marc Perrone said: “Paid sick leave is critical to ensuring workers can get vaccinated without losing a paycheck.”

Two weeks ago, Tyson confirmed it is offering vaccinated staff working in its domestic chicken factories the chance to win cash prizes.

Last week, Kraft Heinz announced its US office-based staff will have to be fully vaccinated before they return to the office in January, unless they have medical or religious exemptions.

Last month also saw a food manufacturer in Australia insist all of its employees are fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

Packaged fruit-and-veg products manufacturer SPC said staff must have had all the necessary jabs by the end of November to gain entry to any company location.