Fiji Airways: Terminates 845 employees – over half the staff
Roughly half the workforce of Fiji Airlines is having their employment terminated or as the media release refers to it: ‘workforce adjustments’. Those that remain will have their salaries cut by 20%, plus be paid according to time worked, which will be reduced to between 2 and 5 days a week.
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The airline majority-owned by the Fijian government stopped all international flights on 25 March.
More recently it extended the suspension of international flights through until the end of June and expected a much-reduced schedule after that.
Fiji Airways is owned by the Air Pacific Group who in turn have shareholder made up of the Fijian government (51%), Qantas (~46%), Air New Zealand and the governments of Kiribati, Tonga, Nauru and Samoa.
The airline first started suspending flights in March, hoping the pandemic would only have a short term effect on the travel industry. At that point, most staff agreed to a pay reduction of around 35%. Now that flight suspensions are extending beyond June, this small airline can’t see a way of continuing to pay its international division’s staff wages.
“This is a very difficult announcement, and one we are only making after exhausting all other options. The sad reality of prolonged flight suspensions means that we simply do not have work for a large segment of our workforce now, and for the foreseeable future. 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.”Andre Viljoen, Fiji Airways Managing Director & CEO
This is a devastating outcome for those affected employees.
The airline is getting terminating the majority of its expatriate executives, as well as pilots and other employees including:
- 8 x expatriate executives. It’s retaining 5 ex-pats (including the CEO) and 6 local executives
- 79 ex-pat pilots are going
- 758 or about 51% of other employees across the group are going with double their contracted two weeks termination pay plus leave and other entitlements
- 20% pay reduction to all retained employees, plus potential reductions in hours and pay accordingly
The aviation industry has a difficult road ahead when it comes to sustainability. It’s going to require a relative revolution in technology, with ‘electric planes’ or hydrogen planes, or some form of jet engine that doesn’t require a carbon based fuel. And that is going to require the development of an alternative to jet engines probably.
It’s a big ask. It will take time to develop.
This move to home grown and manufactured SAF is a first step – maybe even a baby step in a very long road of innovation. In the long run, US$200 million won’t even touch the sides.
This is incredibly unjust to all those faithful airline employees, and devastating to the tourist-dependent economy of Fiji. However I can’t see that, other than a government bailout – and Fijian government finances are not that strong – this is probably the only course of action left to the management.
Many in the tourism industry are advocating that Fiji along with some other island nations should form part of a Pacific bubble, that could join with the Australia and New Zealand travel bubble, to mutually benefit their economies and get each countries respective travel industries and airlines going.
This bubble would allow Australians – I mean me – to travel to New Zealand, Fiji and potentially other islands in the Pacific. Ok, in my fantasies, I would love to head off to Vienna, London and Edinburgh, which I was due to in June. But realistically, I would be happy for a little break in a warm pacific island!
The commonality of these nations during this pandemic period is that they all have relatively low cases of COVID-19.
I feel very sad for these former employees of Fiji Airways, particularly those who are Fijian citizens. It is just lucky that Fijians are intensely good-humoured, and have such a strong sense of family to support them.
I hope to ‘Bulla’ you again very soon. Fiji is such a place of hospitality, staff greet you with ‘Welcome home’ on your arrival, and sing to you at departure.
What did you say?