Well, the hits just keep coming for Canadian airline employees. Hot on the heels of Air Canada’s massive flight attendant layoffs, WestJet announced today that 6,900 workers will be leaving its employ, just shy of half the airline’s 14,000 employees.
The airline says 90% of these departures are “voluntary”, including early retirements, voluntary resignations, and voluntary unpaid leaves of absence that come after employees were canvassed on these options last week.
For their part, WestJet’s executive team has taken a 50% pay cut, while other high-level management employees are taking a 25% cut.
This is only the latest cost-cutting measure to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, which has grounded over 2/3 of WestJet’s fleet. The airline had previously released about 80% of its contractors, frozen hiring, and paused capital projects. It continues to negotiate with vendors to delay payments.
Regardless of their “voluntary” nature, the layoffs are another blow to Calgary, WestJet’s home base. The city was already reeling from rock-bottom oil prices when the coronavirus crisis hit, and things are looking pretty grim around here for the near future.
I certainly hope that WestJet is able to ride out the storm and that the employees who have taken one for the team here are welcomed back to friendly skies soon.