Budapest-based low-cost carrier Wizz Air has hit a storm of controversy over the recent replacement of its chief of flight operations, who is alleged to have encouraged his team to target people who take sick days or don’t accept shifts on their days off for redundancies.
According to a report by Reuters, voice recordings from an internal meeting at Wizz Air HQ from April 2020 have surfaced, in which a Wizz Air manager can be heard encouraging his staff to draw up a list of ‘targets’, as the airline began to roll out 250 pilot redundancies.
The recordings show said manager, reportedly now ex-head of flight operations Darwin Triggs, asking his team to specifically target “bad apples” for redundancies, including people who would call in sick to work or “cause grief”.
“We start off with the bad apples, so anyone who has caused you grief on a routine basis,” the manager is heard saying in the recording, before suggesting that “excessive sickness” or declining to work on days off can now be used as grounds for termination.
In the recording, the manager in question also suggested that any pilots contracted via a Dutch outsourcing firm be left untouched, due to the fact that it’s relatively easy and inexpensive to let them go under normal circumstances.
“They’re easy to manage because we can let them go at any time. They only have 24 days of (leave) and they’re incredibly cheap,” the manager said.
“Sharpen your pencils and let’s see what you can come up with,” he concluded.
The recordings were made amid the company’s plans to slim its workforce down by 20 per cent, around 1,000 jobs, just weeks after the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent travel restrictions saw intra-European travel grind to a halt.
Following the recordings coming to light, Wizz Air this week announced that Triggs was stepping down from his role, after an investigation into “how the COVID-19 related redundancies were determined and carried out” last year.
The airline stated that while an independent review into the airline’s handling of redundancies found no indication of unlawful action, “some factors may have been taken into account that were inconsistent with Wizz Air’s culture of open and honest communication and its focus on employee opportunity”.
When asked to comment on the recording, and subsequent stepping-down of Triggs, a Wizz spokesperson declined to confirm whether or not the voice heard in the recordings was in fact Triggs, or if he was still at the company working under a different role.
The spokesperson did say: “It’s clear that some language was used on an internal call that did not reflect the process being undertaken nor the values of the business and that is a matter of regret.”