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‘Last resort’: WestJet layoffs hit 3,000 workers

written by Sandy Milne | June 25, 2020
A WestJet Boeing 737-700.

Canada’s WestJet has announced a series of changes to the organisation’s structure on 24 June, including cuts to 3,333 employees.

The company’s CEO, Ed Sims, called the decision “difficult, but essential”, adding that the move was necessary “to provide security to our remaining 10,000 WestJetters, and to carry on the work of transforming our business”.

Over the course of the coronavirus pandemic, the airline has had to ground nearly two-thirds its fleet after border shutdowns prompted it to suspend most of its schedule — including all international trips — in late March. Accounting for the latest cuts, costs have also been slashed by around 60 per cent.

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The cuts will affect employees across its operation, including customer support agents, airport operations, and its office and management staff.

“The good news is flight attendants are not affected at all by this,” said Chris Rauenbusch, president of Canada’s Union of Public Employees, in a phone interview with the Globe and Mail. 

“Throughout the course of the biggest crisis in the history of aviation, WestJet has made many difficult, but essential, decisions to future-proof our business,” added Sims.

“WestJet will once again serve the needs of Canadian travellers with low fares and award-winning service levels tomorrow and years from now.”

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The company said a priority in selecting airport partners will be preferential hiring interviews for some of the 2,300 WestJet airport workers now facing layoffs.

About 2,700 WestJet flight attendants are on temporary layoff, receiving 75 per cent wage subsidies through the federal government, and 260 are due back at work shortly.

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