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CEO says FedEx can meet holiday demand ‘assuming that we can get the employees’

The CEO of FedEx said on Sunday the transport company will be able to meet holiday demand “assuming that we can get the employees,” as a number of industries continue to grapple with decreased workforces because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Asked by host Margaret Brennan on CBS’s “Face the Nation” if Christmas presents will arrive on time this holiday season, FedEx CEO Fred Smith said “I think we’re ready for this,” as long as he has enough workers. 

He said FedEx and other companies have seen a shortage in workers in part because of the highly infectious delta variant, and to a degree because of COVID-19 stimulus funds that supported businesses and workers amid the pandemic. 

“We’re ready, assuming that we can get the employees. The lack of employees, particularly since last spring and into the summer, partially because of the delta variant and partially because of the stimulus which hit right before the delta variant took hold of a lot of the country, created a lot of employment issues,” Smith said.

Smith noted that FedEx is currently processing an elevated number of applications to prepare for the holiday surge. The week of May 8, the company was processing roughly 50,000 a day, but in the week beginning Nov. 1, he said officials received 90,000 employment applications.

He said the company is hiring “many, many thousands of people to operate in our 60-plus global hubs that allow us to pick up and transport deliver between any two points on the globe.”

FedEx is expecting a surge in deliveries this holiday season, Smith said. The company is forecasting that it will deliver 100 million more shipments this season compared to the same time period in 2019 because it has been doing more work in the e-commerce sector, and made investments in modernizing its airplane fleet.

Smith’s interview aired days after the Labor Department released a strong October jobs report, which showed the U.S. added 531,000 jobs that month and saw the unemployment rate drop by 0.2 percentage points.

Some companies, however, are still experiencing worker shortages, according to CNBC, compounding bottlenecks in the supply chain and driving up prices nationwide.

Asked by Brennan if he fears that the Biden administration’s new vaccine and testing mandate will drive some workers to leave the company, Smith only said that potential is “not a misplaced fear.”

He also commended the administration for moving the COVID-19 vaccine mandate deadline for federal contractors back from Dec. 8 to Jan. 4.

He said he is supportive of vaccines and that the company offers bonuses to people who get the shot, but a “large percentage” of pickup, delivery, warehouse and fulfillment personnel “simply do not want to get vaccinated.”

Pressed on how he will hold his employees to the mandate, Smith said FedEx will “try any and everything,” pointing to incentives, encouragement “or what have you.”

“We think we’ll be able to work through it,” he added.

Tags fedex FedEx holiday shopping labor shortage supply chain bottlenecks

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