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If Fiji Airways staff were struggling before, the situation will be even worse now.
This was the word from Fiji Flight Attendants Trade Union president Joe McGowan in the wake of an announcement that the national carrier had terminated more than 758 staff, including 435 cabin crew.
“We have mums and dads with families and they all have financial commitments – mortgages, rent, car payments, hire purchase payments and on top of all that, they have to put food on the table,” he said.
The more than 400 flight attendants who were terminated by Fiji Airways say they were willing to work for no pay as long as they remained employed.
McGowan said his members were shocked by the decision taken by the airline.
He said cabin crew had made a lot of concessions and were willing to even forego pay to keep the company afloat throughout the COVID-19 crisis.
“We had consultations with Fiji Airways management all through the pandemic,” McGowan said.
“And we have given up a lot of stuff, in line with the financial challenges the company was going through.
“At no point in our discussions, did management hint at mass terminations.
“The company had informed us the 30 per cent pay reduction would take us until June, so this was anticipated.
“The arbitrary decision to terminate all cabin crew on 25 May was a shock, it took us all by complete surprise.
McGowan said also puzzling was Fiji Airways’ decision to terminate staff members instead of making them redundant.
“We understood there would be a reduction in head count at some point, but not a full scale mass termination like we have just witnessed.
“The way this issue was handled goes totally against the spirit of good faith and, as far as we are concerned, it is illegal because we have a collective agreement.
“We will contest this decision.”
Fiji Airways managing director and CEO Andre Viljoen said all applicable laws were adhered to” prior to the axing of all 435 cabin crew.
In response to queries on whether the Fiji Flight Attendants Trade Union was consulted – and why the airline had not considered an offer from the union that cabin crew would work for free until the situation normalised – Viljoen insisted every avenue had been explored.
“This was an extremely difficult decision, and one that was made only after all other avenues were exhausted, in order to ensure Fiji Airways’ survival,” he said.
Viljoen said the mass job cuts were the only option the company could take to sustain operations.
“We have no other option but to terminate the employment of staff to whom we cannot provide work, which is an unfortunate but vital step we must take in order to protect our cash position and to preserve as many jobs as possible for those staff who the business needs in order to function today,” he said in a statement
Fiji Airways have a total cabin crew of 435, of which 407 are members of the union.
SOURCE: FIJI TIMES/PACNEWS
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