COVID-19: WestJet lays off nearly 7,000 people in response to virus

Marco Green
March 26, 2020

WestJet is the latest major company to announce layoffs due to COVID-19.

The Calgary-based airline announced Tuesday that 6,900 employees are receiving notices of both voluntary and involuntary leaves, in a move CEO Ed Sims called "devastating".

The Canadian carrier will be close to halving its employee count as it was home to 14,000 workers before the announcement.

Previously, the company released more than 80 per cent of its contract workforce and instituting a hiring freeze.

Additionally, WestJet's executive team took a pay cut of 50%, while vice presidents and directors took a pay cut of 25%.

WestJet, along with other airlines, have cut the number of global flights in recent days, operating mostly repatriation and domestic flights for Canadians.

WestJet said it has also been working closely with its unions and employee associations who have collaborated to help achieve the necessary levels of voluntary leaves and salary cuts.

Westjet announced a week ago the cancellation of all transborder and overseas flights effective this past Monday, and an appeal to staff to take advantage of voluntary leave options such as early retirement.

"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 said. "It is through this selfishness that we can preserve a core of people to prepare for the moment when the situation finally stabilizes and we will look to rise again".

Last week, all Canadian airlines announced drastic measures to deal with coronavirus-related drops in bookings and travel restrictions abroad, while shifting their focus towards repatriating Canadians stranded overseas.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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