CALGARY — Calling it one of the company’s “difficult, but essential” decisions, WestJet has announced it is laying off some 3,333 workers in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A video message from WestJet President and CEO Ed Sims can be seen here:
Back in May the airline asked the federal labour minister for an exemption to Canada Labour Code provisions that would facilitate mass layoffs, however on June 23 WestJet said it would no longer pursue the exemption. The layoffs were announced June 24.
Airlines around the world have been devastated by the pandemic, with travel grounding to a halt in mid-March and networks still barely a fraction of normal levels heading into the normally busy summer months.
As part of the reorganization WestJet will consolidate call centre activity in Alberta, contract out airport operations in all domestic airports outside of Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Toronto, and restructure its office and management staff.
“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,” said Sims. “Today’s announcement regarding these strategic but unavoidable changes will allow us to provide security to our remaining 10,000 WestJetters, and to carry on the work of transforming our business. WestJet will once again serve the needs of Canadian travellers with low fares and award-winning service levels tomorrow and years from now.”
WestJet’s other cost-cutting measures have included releasing a majority of outside contractors, instituting a hiring freeze, stopping all non-essential travel and training, suspending any internal role movements and salary adjustments, cutting executive, vice-president and director salaries and pausing more than 75% of its capital projects.
WestJet has been serving its 38 year-round domestic airports during the pandemic to ensure essential lifelines for travel and cargo but its scheduled operations have been reduced by more than 90% year over year.