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Stalemate over Gulf Air restructure talks

Manama, December 27, 2012

The unions of Bahrain’s national carrier Gulf Air have agreed not to communicate with the airline's executive management about the restructuring of the airline, a report said.

The row comes after Gulf Air Trade Union (GATU) and National Trade Union of Gulf Air (NTUGA) were allegedly given 24 hours to come up with an alternative proposal or risk being excluded from future discussions, according to the report in our sister publication, the Gulf daily News.

Around 1,800 jobs could be axed as part of a deal to secure a BD185 million ($478.8 million) government bailout.

The government earlier outlined a major downsizing plan designed to reduce Gulf Air losses from BD95 million to BD58 million a year by 2017.

"The executive management (at Gulf Air) has called on both trade unions to submit our proposals for restructuring within 24 hours which is impossible to do in the time given," said GATU spokesman Mohammad Mahdi.

"They said that if we don't comply, then the Transportation Minister will go forward without the unions. We (GATU and NTUGA) have outright rejected it. We have sent them a statement saying that we will not submit our proposal until we have seen theirs, so we can have something to base our proposal on."

The unions snubbed a recent chance to meet Gulf Air management following a request and have refused to do so until their demands are met.

"We didn't meet the executive management the other day because we didn't receive their proposal yet and we won't give our views on the proposal until we see theirs," said Mahdi.

"If they don't have the intention of sharing their proposal with us, then we will no longer co-operate and will not sign off on anything.

"In that case then it will be the decision of the executive management and the Transportation Ministry to continue but if they do, then they will assume all the responsibility of the workers, the national carrier and the consequences the decision will have on the national economy."

GATU represents 1,110 Gulf Air staff and NTUGA around 300. They usually work separately, but have united on the issue, the report said.

"We have created a covenant between Gulf Air Trade Union and the National Trade Union of Gulf Air," said Mahdi.

"We are still both separate entities that have joined together on this issue of restructuring and we are unified in our goals. An agreement between both unions will be signed by the presidents on this issue and even a joint Press release has been issued."

Gulf Air would neither confirm or deny giving the unions 24 hours to come up with an alternative restructuring proposal.

Scheme

A spokesman said the restructuring strategy was the responsibility of the airline's shareholders and management and trade unions were being consulted where necessary.

"The Gulf Air management doors are always open and it welcomes the unions to have a proactive dialogue directly with the management," he said.

The spokesman added the airline had agreed the unions would come forward with an expected Voluntary Early Retirement scheme within a week.

MP and financial and economic affairs committee vice-chairman Abdulhakeem Al Shammeri called for sufficient time to be given to the process to allow the best possible solution for both parties.

"In general we cannot interfere in daily and detailed actions and positions of the company," he said.

"We have discussed the Gulf Air issue recently and we stated that they need to change as Bahrain cannot stand continued losses of the national carrier so we offered two suggestions. They should not operate any non-profitable destinations and they must solve the overstaff problem taking into consideration the protection of the national manpower as much as possible." – TradeArabia News Service




Tags: Gulf Air | Bahrain | Airline | unions | Restructure |

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