Gulf Air union seeks urgent talks on staff cuts
Manama, April 4, 2013
Unionists are seeking urgent meetings with the management of Bahrain’s national carrier Gulf Air after airline staff reportedly began receiving dismissal notices this week, a report said.
The national carrier launched a two-phase voluntary redundancy scheme in January as part of cost-cutting measures, which also include reducing destinations and slashing its fleet, according to the report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
However, the Gulf Air Trade Union (GATU) said only a few employees had agreed to accept voluntary redundancy, prompting the airline to start axing staff.
Around 3,800 people were employed at Gulf Air, which is reportedly seeking to shed up to 1,800 jobs in a massive downsizing operation.
The airline said that six per cent of its workforce had been reduced in January and the figure increased to 15pc at the end of February under the voluntary redundancy scheme.
However, GATU spokesman Mohammed Mahdi told the GDN the airline had hoped to lose 600 employees in the second round of cuts from February 21 to March 20, but only 300 came forward - even though it was extended from March 6.
"Those who signed were people fired in 2011 and then rehired," claimed Mahdi. "They feared once the company commenced with forced redundancies they would be the first on the chopping block and would possibly get less than the packages offered."
News that termination notices have been issued follows a cross-party meeting of MPs on Tuesday, during which Gulf Air and Gulf Technics were urged to protect the jobs of Bahrainis.
Mahdi told the GDN yesterday that at least four people - all Bahrainis - at Gulf Air had received termination notices, although he said there could be more.
"We have received the actual dismissal letter of one of the sacked Bahrainis that clearly states it was because of the restructuring," Mahdi said.
He read out a copy of the dismissal letter, signed by the human resources director, which stated the recipient was being axed because of the restructuring programme.
"This is to inform you that the service contract between you and Gulf Air has been terminated, effective immediately, due to restructuring operations and as part of the restructuring process adopted by management to minimise cost," he said, translating the letter from Arabic to English.
However, Mahdi complained that those who received the letters had not been informed why they had been singled out for redundancy.
"People got calls and were told that it was their final day and they should visit human resources to collect their papers," he claimed. "They didn't explain to them why they were being let go and not their colleagues."
He said the union objected to the decision and urged all staff who received termination notices to contact the union.
"We want the management to stop dismissals and to reinstate those who have been dismissed already," said Mahdi.
Meanwhile, a circular issued by the union also accused Gulf Air management of ignoring the terms of an agreement signed in 2010, which was supposed to pave the way for closer co-operation.
Gulf Air is aiming to reduce costs by 24 per cent by the end of the year and plans to reduce its fleet to just 26 Airbus planes by the end of this month.
It said in February that any dismissals outside of the voluntary scheme would be based on performance reviews and individual job assessments.
Gulf Air announced the restructuring strategy, which aims to reduce losses of BD95 million ($250.5 million) a year, in December after parliament and the Shura Council vetoed a request for a BD664.3 million government bailout.
However, Mahdi complained that Gulf Air was hiring former Bahrain Air pilots - even as it sought to shed its own workforce.
The carrier previously said it would not sack Bahraini pilots.
GATU is now hoping to meet Labour Ministry officials and Gulf Air management.
Meanwhile, a Gulf Air statement to the GDN said, "A number of positions have been affected by the restructuring however the downsizing process has been and will continue to be implemented in a fair and transparent manner with Gulf Air continuing to be a key employer committed to developing a national workforce of aviation professionals.
"The airline is working to strengthen its core services through optimising its network, re-engineering its internal processes and aligning its workforce to meet its revised network and fleet requirements," the statement added. – TradeArabia News Service
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