WestJet Is Eliminating Nearly Half Of Its Workforce

Bruce Parkinson, Open Jaw

Ed Sims

WestJet has announced that 6,900 employees are leaving the organization. The airline had approximately 14,000 employees before this announcement.

“Today, 6,900 WestJetters are receiving notices confirming early retirements, early outs and both voluntary and involuntary leaves,” said Ed Sims, WestJet President and CEO. “This is devastating news for all WestJetters. The fact that we avoided a potentially worse outcome is testament to the spirit and selfless attitude demonstrated by our people, who have enabled WestJet to continue operating with a collective remaining workforce of 7,100.”

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, WestJet says it has implemented immediate cost-cutting measures including releasing more than 80% of its contract workforce, instituting a hiring freeze, stopping all non-essential travel and training, suspending any internal role movements and salary adjustments, pausing more than 75% of capital projects and asking suppliers for a reduction or delay in payments. 

The airline’s executive team took a 50% pay cut, while vice-presidents and directors have taken a 25% pay cut.

Last week, WestJet issued a communication across the organization asking WestJetters to put up their hand to support the survival of the airline by selecting one of a number of options including unpaid leave of absence, early retirement, voluntary resignation (early out), reduced work week or reduced pay. The airline says 90% of those leaving are doing so voluntarily.

Said Sims, “It is through these WestJetters’ sacrifices that we can preserve a core of people who will remain employed to prepare for the moment when the situation stabilizes, and we can look to rise again.”

WestJet says it has been working closely with unions and employee associations to help achieve the necessary levels of voluntary leaves and salary cuts.

“We could not have achieved what was required without the support and collaboration of our union leadership and the leaders of our employee associations,” Sims continued.

In a message to its members Tuesday, CUPE, the union representing WestJet cabin crew, said 1,982 of its members selected a voluntary option, so for the month of April at least, there were 298 involuntary layoffs among CUPE members.

"The union will continue to focus on working alongside the company to avoid further layoffs to every degree possible. We will also focus our efforts on ensuring a fair and transparent recall process with the goal of returning all of our members to the line as soon as possible," said CUPE's message.

Bruce Parkinson

Bruce Parkinson Editor-in-Chief

An observer and analyst of the Canadian and international travel industries for over 25 years, Bruce uses the pre-dawn hours to prepare a daily news and information package to keep industry members up to date.

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