CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — The president of the nation’s largest flight attendant union is clearing the air about why she criticized Delta’s sick leave policy for staff with COVID-19.
Sara Nelson, who is the president of the Association of Flight Attendants, tweeted out last week that the union was getting “multiple reports” that Delta is telling workers that they should come to work with symptoms even if someone in the household tested positive. In that same tweet, Nelson also pointed out that infected workers were told to come to work after five days, even if they still tested positive. The airline company has denied those allegations and sent a cease-and-desist letter to the union.
Nelson, who made an appearance on “The Donlon Report”, said the real reason why she tweeted about the issue was out of concern for the public’s health, not to spread rumors.
“It was not helpful for Delta to ask the CDC to change the policy in the middle of the busy holiday travel season to say that this was a staffing issue, rather than a public health issue,” she said. “We were also concerned that when the CDC did actually respond to the request to change the number of guidance, quarantine days from 10 to five…[it] included you needed to be asymptomatic when you come back and initially, Delta did not include that.”
The CDC updated its COVID-19 isolation guidance to five days on Dec. 27, after being urged by the airline to make that change. On Dec. 28, Delta updated its COVID-19 sick leave policy for workers who tested positive for the virus to five days off with pay protection. The staff also got two additional days if they test positive again on day five. Previously the staff had 10 days of paid leave.
Nelson said during that time of uncertainty, the union was getting a lot of calls and questions from flyers and union members about their health concerns.
“We were getting reports that people were very confused about this, in the middle of the busy holiday season,” she said. “Implementing a policy like that, at that time is not helpful. We got with management right away and said, This is going to confuse people, let’s talk about this.”
Nelson said when the airline updated its guidance, the union was relieved to hear the news.
“We were happy that the issues that we raised led them to act fairly quickly and update that policy. But again, this was over the course of the holidays over a course of a few short days.”
When it comes to staffing shortages the airlines are facing nowadays, Nelson said the union is working overtime to combat that issue. She said the bottom line is that people need to know that they are safe to travel, especially with the omicron variant surge.
“People need to understand what the guidance is [and] how best to protect themselves, how to protect their workplace and the passengers in our care. And in our case, in air travel, [it’s] especially important that the traveling public understands that you can fly safely.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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