In a social media video message, Ed Sims credited the federal government’s emergency wage subsidy program, which he said WestJet would request after the airline had “substantial” conversations with Ottawa.
Air Canada to Apply for Wage Subsidy Program to Maintain Payroll of Workers in COVID-19 Pandemic
Sims said the move would not necessarily mean that these employees would return to work, “because there just may not be enough work for them.”
“This will help them make ends meet and I am grateful for the hard work of the Government of Canada and all governments in Canada to provide businesses like ours with the tools they need to continue operating in these most difficult times,” said he declared. .
WestJet laid off about half of its workforce last month, or 6,900 employees, as air travel collapsed due to travel restrictions imposed by the Canadian government due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Airlines around the world have been hit by similar restrictions imposed by most major countries, forcing them to downsize their networks or immobilize their planes entirely. Hundreds of thousands of airline and airport workers have been laid off.
Coronavirus: Trudeau relaxes wage subsidy rules for businesses losing revenue
Earlier Thursday, Air Canada announced that it would also apply the wage subsidy program, putting 16,500 employees on the payroll. Most of these workers will earn their income from home, the airline said.
Under the wage subsidy program, workers earn 75% of regular hourly wages or up to $ 847 per week. The emergency response program, on the other hand, offers $ 500 a week to unemployed Canadians.
Ottawa relaxes qualifications for new wage subsidy
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Thursday that the federal government would relax the eligibility requirements of businesses for wage subsidies.
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According to Trudeau, businesses should post a 15% drop in revenue in March, up from 30% previously to be eligible.
Sims said Thursday that WestJet will continue to serve the 38 Canadian cities on its network, although most of these cities will see fewer flights.
WestJet announces layoffs for nearly 50% of staff due to COVID-19, Air Canada cuts pilots
“We will not fail this airline unless governments specifically request it,” he said.
WestJet grounded 120 of its planes last month as it announced its layoffs, with Sims saying the changes had brought the airline back to 2003 operating levels.
Sims said 17 WestJet passengers tested positive for COVID-19, five of which have since recovered.
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