Gulf Air union demands higher payout
Manama, November 21, 2012
Unionists at Bahrain’s national carrier Gulf Air are demanding increased severance packages ahead of proposed mass layoffs as part of a major downsizing.
The Gulf Air Trade Union (GATU) met management of the airline yesterday seeking answers about the fate of thousands of staff who could be facing redundancy, said a report in our sister publication the Gulf Daily News (GDN).
As many as 1,800 staff could be laid off under a deal put on the table by the government to secure National Assembly approval for a BD185 million ($487.75 million) bailout of the carrier.
Under current rules any member of staff made redundant is entitled to four months' salary plus one month for every year they have been employed at the airline, GATU spokesman Mohammad Mahadi told the GDN.
He said the union yesterday asked for an increase in the size of redundancy packages to provide additional financial support to staff whose job was axed.
"With all those people facing redundancy we are trying to help as much as possible," he said.
"Those staff members should be getting more than the current package. We want the increase because the majority of salaries at Gulf Air have not changed in maybe the last two years. In that time there have been virtually no pay rises and some demotions, not to mention that life has become more expensive, so we believe that this needs to be changed to compensate."
Mahadi added that the airline management were still awaiting word on the extent of job cuts, as well as fleet reduction and route cancellations, as part of a major cost-cutting exercise.
The GDN reported last month that Gulf Air could be dramatically downsized as part of a restructuring plan designed to reduce its losses from BD95 million to BD58 million a year by 2017.
It proposes halving the airline's fleet and staff and slashing routes, although both parliament and Shura Council must first approve the plan before it can go ahead.
"The exact number of staff that will have to be cut has still not been given to us," added Mahadi.
"When it has been finalised they will give the plan to the trade union. They made a promise to the union to involve it in all decision-making in future and we will make sure that we know straight away."
Another point raised at the meeting was the treatment of employees who are not on the Gulf Air payroll, but whose jobs are dependant on Gulf Air - specifically staff in its IT department where work has been outsourced.
"These staff members, according to the system we have in place, are not being treated equally as Gulf Air employees," said Mahadi.
"These rights include seniority rights, medical insurance, leave, ticketing and more. The employees are the same at Gulf Air and deserve the same rights."
The union is also asking the airline to once again subsidise a one per cent salary deduction, which is levied by the government on all workers and goes towards an unemployment fund that supports jobseekers.
Salary dues to be settled soon
Gulf Air employees who were dismissed last year and then reinstated should be compensated by the end of the year, the report said.
GATU said those staff were promised that they would be paid for the time they were laid off.
However, it claims most are still awaiting their outstanding salary.
"Ninety per cent who have been reinstated are still working without their rights," claimed Mahadi. "They were not paid for about six months, some less."
He said airline management said they should be getting the cash in a matter of weeks.
"The management agreed to pay for those months, but it hasn't happened," he added. "We were told it should happen by the end of the year." – TradeArabia News Service