WestJet on March 24 announced that 6,900 employees will be leaving the organization, with 90 per cent of those leaving voluntarily. The airline had approximately 14,000 employees before this announcement. WestJet’s low-cost airline subsidiary Swoop had 269 employees impacted through voluntary and involuntary means.
The Calgary-based company recently suspended its commercial operations for all transborder (United States, including Hawaii) and international (Europe, Mexico, Caribbean, Central America) flights, as of March 22 for a 30-day period.
“Today, 6,900 WestJetters are receiving notices confirming early retirements, early outs and both voluntary and involuntary leaves,” said Ed Sims, president and CEO, WestJet. “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.”
In announcing its workforce reduction, WestJet notes it has implemented cost-cutting measures including: Releasing more than 80 per cent 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 per cent of its capital projects and asking suppliers for a reduction or delay in payments. The airline also notes its executive team took a 50 per cent pay cut, while vice-presidents and directors have taken a 25 per cent pay cut.
A week prior to this announcement, WestJet issued a communication asking its employees 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.
“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,” said Sims.