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Gulf Air union plans action against staff cuts

Manama, May 15, 2013

The trade union members of Gulf Air, the national carrier of Bahrain, met yesterday (May 14) to draw up a plan of action if Bahrain's national carrier resumes compulsory redundancies, a report said.

The union now plans to write to top brass asking to be kept in the picture about the airline restructuring and called on management to come clean about future plans, according to the report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.

The GDN reported last week that the airline had suspended a compulsory redundancy programme, but the Gulf Air Trade Union fears it is only a matter of time before management starts wielding the axe again.

Spokesman Mohammad Mahdi told the GDN there were unconfirmed reports that the carrier had halved the number of employees that it needs to let go next month from 300 to 150, but complained that unionists were still being excluded from the decision-making process.

Mahdi added voluntary redundancy packages were now available until the end of this month, but said an atmosphere of fear persisted - with employees not knowing if their jobs were safe in the long term.

"We are very pleased with the management of Gulf Air for temporarily suspending the compulsory redundancy scheme, and hope that we can start openly communicating with each other," he said.

"We have heard from some good sources that the airline has halved its requirement of people who have to be dismissed from 300 to 150, which is great news.

"Yet, we don't have anything on paper to say this and the workers we communicate with are still afraid that the finger will be pointed at them next, and this is affecting their morale and productivity."

Gulf Air agreed last week to suspend compulsory redundancies following a meeting with the Transportation and Labour ministries and the Bahrain Mumtalakat Holding Company.

Strategy

Voluntary redundancy schemes had initially been used to trim the workforce as part of a three-year strategy to downsize the airline. The scheme was launched in January.

However, the airline later commenced forced redundancies to speed up the process of slashing jobs, simplifying its fleet and reducing its network.

The airline has not revealed how many staff have been let go since January and the trade union says it has not been supplied the information.

However, Mahdi would not go into detail about what action the union was planning if compulsory redundancies resumed.

"We don't want to release the plan as we feel there is no need to antagonise the management," he said. "We are trying very hard to get them to involve us in the decision making process, because at this point they seem to be working alone."

Gulf Air is in the midst of a downsizing intended to achieve cost savings of 24 per cent by the end of the year and reduce the airline's losses from BD95 million ($250.5 million) to BD58 million by 2017.

Around 3,800 people were employed by the carrier, which is reportedly seeking to shed up to 1,066 jobs - as part of the massive downsizing operation - of which 565 are based abroad.

The airline earlier said 15 per cent of its workforce had been reduced at the end of February as a result of its voluntary retirement scheme.

Independent aviation analyst, the CAPA Centre for Aviation, in a report last month indicated the airline would emerge much leaner and more commercially viable, although losses were expected to continue until the end of the year.

Gulf Air officials were unavailable for comment yesterday. – TradeArabia News Service




Tags: Gulf Air | Bahrain | Airline | restructuring | Trade Union |

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