Gulf Air union threatens stir against job cuts
Manama, April 25, 2013
Unionists have threatened to strike unless Bahrain’s national carrier Gulf Air halts a major restructuring plan that will see hundreds of people lose their jobs, a report said.
The Gulf Air Trade Union (GATU) is planning to lobby Labour Minister Jameel Humaidan and parliament chairman Dr Khalifa Al Dhahrani in a last-ditch bid to try and safeguard their employment, according to the report in the Gulf Daily News, our sister publication.
Around 3,800 people were employed by Gulf Air, which is reportedly seeking to shed up to 1,800 jobs as part of a massive downsizing operation.
The airline earlier said 15 per cent of its workforce had been reduced at the end of February as a result of its voluntary redundancy scheme.
At least 30 Bahrainis have now been forced to take voluntary retirement packages, said GATU spokesman Mohammed Mahdi.
The figure was revealed during an urgent meeting held by the union to discuss the dismissals at its headquarters in Muharraq yesterday.
"There could be more that have still not come to the union," said Mahdi.
"We have reacted to the dismissals in three ways; first, we have sent a circular to all GATU members rejecting the dismissals and detail of the meeting. Secondly, we have drafted a letter to be sent to the Labour Minister and the last thing is we have drafted a letter to the parliament chairman.
"We also have some different scenarios laid out on the table for different activities relating to the dismissals but we will not disclose those at this point. A strike is on the table but no decision has been made,” he added.
Mahdi said most of the 30 Bahrainis dismissed were involved in issuing tickets, the airline's frequent flyer programme and customer service and at least two are considering legal action.
"People in the same departments as those who were sacked are also approaching the union with fears that they are next," he said.
"Their concern is that people in similar positions are being fired and they may also be considered expendable. Morale is very low in these departments which is bad because these are the departments that are the face of Bahrain when tourists call or go to get tickets."
Airline officials declined to comment on the threat of a strike, but said the downsizing would continue as part of its restructuring process.
"A number of positions have been affected by the restructuring, however, the rightsizing 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," it said in a statement.
The airline announced on Tuesday its losses had reduced by 50 per cent in the first quarter of the year due to the new restructuring strategy. – TradeArabia News Service