Canada’s second largest airline cuts almost half its staff

TORONTO (AP) — Canada’s second biggest airline, WestJet, said Tuesday almost half its employees are leaving the company amid the pandemic as it seeks to survive until things stabilize.

WestJet said 6,900 employees are leaving, with 90 percent leaving voluntarily. The company had 14,000 employees before the announcement.

Chief executive Ed Sims said in a statement that those leaving include early retirements, resignations and both voluntary and involuntary layoffs.

The Calgary, Alberta-based company has canceled all international flights for 30 days and, like Air Canada, severely scaled back domestic capacity.

Sims said the company sent out a communication last week asking 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, 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,” he said.

He said the airline’s executive team took a 50 percent pay cut, while vice presidents and directors have taken a 25 percent pay cut. He said they are also in contact with the provincial and federal governments about the depth of the problem.

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