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FTUC condemns contract terminations but Fiji Airways says all applicable laws were adhered to

FTUC condemns contract terminations but Fiji Airways says all applicable laws were adhered to

By Semi Turaga
Tuesday 26/05/2020
Fiji Trades Union Congress National Secretary Felix Anthony

Fiji Trades Union Congress National Secretary Felix Anthony says the termination of the contracts of 758 Fiji Airways employees have come without notice nor does it appear that there were sufficient consultations or negotiations with the union but Fiji Airways Managing Director and CEO Andre Viljoen says all Fiji Airways employees have been regularly updated on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the company, and the need for increasingly drastic actions if the situation did not improve.

In a statement, Anthony says the termination of the 758 Fiji Airways staff is a demonstration of how insensitive the management is, in dealing with such sensitive issues.

He says of greater concern is that the management has given employees 48 hours to return all company property.

Anthony says workers were escorted out of the premises by security personnel after being told of their termination.

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Fiji Airways hanger. [image: file]

He says this is inhumane treatment of employees.

He adds that if Fiji Airways was in financial strife because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it ought to have consulted the union in accordance with the Employment Relations Act and entered into consultations with the union and entered into an agreement prior to serving termination letters.

Anthony says the Collective Agreement between Fiji Airways and the union requires Fiji Airways to give 60 days’ notice of intended redundancy and to explore all possibilities to avert redundancy.

He says if this is not possible then Fiji Airways has the obligation to pay one months’ salary to workers with less than one year of service.

Anthony says for workers with more than a year's service, workers are entitled to be paid three months base salary plus weeks pay for every year of service.

The FTUC National Secretary claims this was totally disregarded by management who simply advised workers that the board had made the decision.

He further claims that the board was nowhere to be seen.

Anthony says union representatives who attended yesterday morning's meeting were handed their termination letters at the meeting.

He also says employers such as Fiji Airways cannot and should not take advantage of the current pandemic crisis and summarily terminate workers.

In response to the statement by FTUC, Fiji Airways Managing Director and CEO Andre Viljoen says Fiji Airways appreciates the impact of the announcement on their colleagues who have regrettably had their employment terminated.

He says 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.

Viljoen adds Fiji Airways is in the same position as most other airlines, having to pay recurrent fixed costs, but earning next to zero revenue.

He stresses that in the circumstances, it was simply not sustainable for the company to continue to pay salaries to employees who are not working.

Viljoen further says today’s terminations were based upon the company’s inability to provide work to affected employees; this was not a restructuring or redundancy process.

He adds all Fiji Airways employees have been regularly updated on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the company, and the need for increasingly drastic actions if the situation did not improve.

Viljoen says all applicable laws were adhered to.

He adds that this is a sad day for the company, and their thoughts are with their colleagues who, like many people around the world, have lost their jobs as a consequence of this unprecedented global pandemic.

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