Calgary

WestJet to rehire nearly 6,400 workers with help of federal wage subsidy

WestJet says 6,400 workers will be brought back onto its payroll once the government has approved its Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy program.

Calgary-based airline laid off 6,900 workers amid the worsening COVID-19 crisis

WestJet is rehiring nearly 6,400 employees let go due to the COVID-19 pandemic, citing new emergency funding from the federal government. (Daniel Slim/AFP/Getty Images)

WestJet says 6,400 workers will be brought back onto its payroll once the federal government has approved an emergency wage subsidy program.

In a statement Wednesday night, WestJet CEO Ed Sims cautioned that there might not be enough work for the rehired employees, but noted "it does help them make ends meet.

"We will be communicating with those WestJetters who are affected by this decision as soon as we can," said Sims.

Last month, WestJet announced it was cutting roughly half of its 14,000 employees with the elimination of 6,900 positions.

Canada's airline industry has seen a dramatic reduction in demand due to lockdowns to control the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. 

The Calgary-based airline's move to rehire its employees follows a similar move by Air Canada, which announced Wednesday that it would rehire 16,500 laid-off workers with assistance from the same federal wage subsidy program. 

The federal government's emergency wage subsidy — originally targeted only at small- and medium-sized businesses — was expanded earlier in April to cover a 75-per-cent wage subsidy for Canadian companies that had lost 30 per cent of revenue due to the pandemic.

WestJet said it can't guarantee that all employees will be coming back to work in the short-term, but the new subsidy will help out.

After announcing layoffs in late March, WestJet executives took a 50-per-cent pay cut and vice-presidents and directors took a 25-per-cent cut.

The airline also said it would reduce the number of flights offered in Canada by about half due to a reduced demand for travel.

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