WestJet to hire back 6,400 laid-off workers
TORONTO -- WestJet is following Air Canada's lead and hiring back thousands of laid-off workers now that the government has agreed to pay the majority of their wages.
In a video posted to social media late Wednesday night, WestJet president and CEO said nearly 6,400 employees will be brought back onto the company's payroll – although most of them will not be asked to perform any operational duties.
"There will simply not be enough work there for them, but it will help them make ends meet," Sims said in the video.
WestJet announced on March 24 that it would be laying off 6,900 workers, or almost half of its total staff.
Sims said the about-face is a result of the federal government's emergency wage subsidy, which allows businesses to keep workers on the payroll with the government paying 75 per cent of their salaries. The government recently loosened its rules around which businesses are eligible for this program, expanding it to any that can show a 15-per-cent decline in revenues during March.
The 6,400 workers will be rehired once the changes to the wage subsidy program are passed by Parliament, Sims said.
WestJet's announcement came hours after rival Air Canada said it plans to rehire all 16,500 workers it laid off in late March because it can now access the same program.
Acknowledging a "downturn" in business due to the decline in air travel amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Sims said WestJet service will continue to be reduced but vowed that the airline would not abandon any of the 38 airports it currently serves.
"We will not be grounding this airline unless specifically instructed to by the governments," he said.