Trade associations representing retailers are calling on the federal government to recalculate the timeline for implementation of new temporary COVID-19 vaccination and testing protocols for companies with 100 or more employees.

The groups, which have offered support for the goals of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS), say that they have played important roles in safeguarding employees and the public from the virus. Their concern about the employer-based ETS is centered around timing and resources.

“We are deeply concerned about the timing for implementing the OSHA vaccine mandate during the most important season of the year for retailers and customers,” Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the National Retail Federation, said in a statement. “Our members are already facing workforce shortages and supply chain disruptions, in addition to the legal and practical challenges of implementing this ETS during the holiday season.”

Mr. Shay said that deadlines set in the program — December 6 to provide proof of vaccination status and January 4 to test unvaccinated workers — are “unworkable and virtually impossible.”

In a letter yesterday  to the Department of Labor and President Joe Biden, Mr. Shay said that most of the trade group’s members would not be able to acquire enough “reliable” COVID tests to meet the government’s deadline. NRF has asked the government to delay the mandates on its members until March 2022.

FMI and the National Grocers Association (NGA) each voiced concerns last week when the ETS was made public about the timing and the potential effects that implementation may have on the nation’s food supply.

Jennifer Hatcher, FMI’s chief public policy officer and senior vice president, government and public affairs, said the rules as written do not not balance key issues like a lack of testing availability for employers and the likelihood of significant workforce attrition due to the mandate, particularly among truck drivers. FMI believes the ETS will exacerbate an already existing shortage of transport and supply chain capacity, further slowing delivery times and driving up costs for consumers, retailers and manufacturers.”

Greg Ferrara, NGA president and CEO, said in a statement last week that the association and its members are supportive of the government’s vaccination goals but said that more flexibility is needed to make it work without negative repercussions. His comments on timing and repercussions echoed those of his peers at other trade groups.

NACS, which represents convenience store retailers, issued a release this morning that it was joining a lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit against ETS. The group echoed those issues raised by other retailers objecting to the timeline.


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