WestJet has agreed to rehire almost 6,400 employees once the Canadian government has approved the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy program, the company has announced.
WestJet President and CEO Ed Sims confirmed the decision in a statement issued late Wednesday night (April 8th). However, Sims clarified that "this does not automatically mean that they will be coming back to work as there may not be work there for them."
WestJet's move to bring employees back on the payroll follows a similar move by Air Canada, which announced Wednesday that it would rehire 16,500 laid-off workers with help from the same federal wage subsidy program.
WestJet has temporarily removed international and transborder flights from its schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic and has reduced its domestic service.
However, the airline continues to fly scheduled cargo operations to its 23 domestic cargo bases across Canada, bringing critical supplies each day including perishables, pharmaceuticals, blood products and many other necessary items.
While the work may not be there for all employees, "it does help them make ends meet and I am grateful for the hard work by the Government of Canada and of all governments across Canada to provide businesses with the tools to continue operating in these challenging times," Sims stated, adding that the company will be communicating with those WestJetters who are affected by this decision "as soon as we can.”
“I again want to thank WestJetters on the frontline – our pilots, cabin crew members, customer service agents, contact centre agents, operations control teams and technical operations crew. They have continued to put the interests of guests ahead of their own and I could not be prouder of them," Sims stated.
Sims went on to thanking those WestJetters involved in the repatriation flights to bring Canadians home and those involved in moving vital cargo shipments across our network.
"Behind the scenes, our procurement team has scoured the globe to obtain the required safety equipment, striking a balance between getting what we need while ensuring we continue to deliver tons of essential supplies to our public health workers. Canada is seeing the best of WestJet every day in the work our WestJetters are doing," Sims stated.
He also thanked Canada's "remarkable" health care workers.
"It may sound bizarre to hear an airline guy encourage people to stay at home, but by limiting our own travel, we are protecting the safety of our nurses, doctors, orderlies and care givers and shortening the time we all need to spend self-isolating," Sims stated.
Despite the COVID-19 virus driving down demand.WestJet will continue serving the 38 cities to which it currently flies, Sims said.
The CEO also noted that WestJet will not be grounding its airplanes unless instructed to by the governments
"A stable network is the strongest platform from which to recover and rebuild and to keep Canadian airfares fair for many, many years to come," Sims concluded.