WestJet rehires 6,400 employees amid sharp decline in air travel

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TORONTO –
WestJet is following Air Canada’s lead and hiring thousands of laid-off workers now that the government has agreed to pay the majority of their wages.

In a video posted on social media on Wednesday evening, the WestJet president and CEO said that nearly 6,400 employees will be reinstated on the company’s payroll – although most of them will not be not called upon to exercise operational functions.

“There just won’t be enough work there for them, but it will help them make ends meet,” Sims said in the video.

WestJet announced on March 24 that it will fire 6,900 workers, nearly half of its total workforce.

Sims said the flip-flop is the result of the federal government’s emergency wage subsidy, which allows companies to keep employees on the payroll, with the government paying 75 percent of their wages. The government recently relaxed its rules governing companies eligible for the program, extending it to all those that may experience a 15% drop in revenue in March.

The 6,400 workers will be rehired once the changes to the wage subsidy program are passed by Parliament, said Sims.

WestJet’s announcement came hours after rival Air Canada announced plans to rehire the 16,500 employees it laid off at the end of March because it could now access the same program.

Recognizing a “slowdown” in business due to the drop in air travel in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sims said that WestJet service will continue to be cut, but has vowed that the airline will not abandon any of the 38 airports it currently serves.

“We will not fail this airline unless governments specifically request it,” he said.



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