Southwest Airlines has informed the U.S. Department of Labor it could furlough 6,828 employees in March and April, the company said in a statement.
“Southwest Airlines has been in discussions since early October with union representatives from all of our contract groups to negotiate temporary cost reductions to help offset the billion dollars of overstaffing costs projected for next year. The airline currently employs nearly 58,000 people. The workgroups that approve these temporary reductions for next year will receive protection from furloughs for all of 2021” the statement said.
It would be a marked change for the Dallas based carrier, which has never had a furlough or pay cut instituted in its history.
The root of the decision is a combination of the effects of the unrelenting pandemic and an inability for the company to reach agreements with most of it’s unions.
In the statement, Southwest said “Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notifications (WARN) notices were issued to 6,828 Southwest Employees in the following workgroups:
2,551 Ramp, Provisioning, Operations, and Cargo Agents represented by Transport Workers Union, AFL-CIO 555 (TWU)1,176 Customer Service Agents in Ground Operations represented by International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, AFL-CIO (IAM)370 Customer Support and Services and Source of Support Representatives (similar to reservations) represented by International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, AFL-CIO (IAM)1,500 Flight Attendants represented by Transport Workers Union, AFL-CIO 556 (TWU)1,221 Pilots represented by Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA)Six Flight Instructors represented by Transport Workers Union, AFL-CIO 557 (TWU)Four Flight Simulator Technicians represented by International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT)”The statement was given a chilly reaction from the Transport Workers Union 556, which represents the flight attendants. “TWU is going to keep fighting to avoid concessions and furloughs and find other cost saving measures that are voluntary” said Lyn Montgomery, president of the local.
There is still a chance an extension of the payroll support program could pass Congress before any furloughs are enacted. The program’s expiration in October has led to massive layoffs at rival American Airlines.