New Brunswick

279 N.B. call centre, airport staff among WestJet layoffs

The company announced it laid off 3,333 employees permanently, citing the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing travel restrictions as the reason for the cuts.

Company announced Wednesday it had permanently laid off 3,333 employees

WestJet announced Wednesday it was permanently laying off 3,333 workers, 279 of which are based in New Brunswick. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

More than 270 WestJet employees in New Brunswick were let go as part of the mass layoffs the Canadian airliner announced Wednesday.

The company announced it laid off 3,333 employees permanently, citing the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing travel restrictions as the reason for the cuts. 

Of the 279 affected New Brunswick workers, 253 are in Moncton, where the company shut down its call centre.

In a statement to CBC News, WestJet confirmed that all of its call centres will be consolidated in the company's home in Calgary. Other centres in Halifax and Vancouver are now closed, too. 

Fifteen WestJet employees at the Greater Moncton Roméo LeBlanc International Airport and 11 staff at the Fredericton International Airport have also lost their jobs.

However, the closures have not impacted WestJet flights at either airport.

In a video issued by WestJet on Wednesday, CEO Ed Sims said all domestic airport operations will be contracted out, except Calgary, Vancouver, Edmonton and Toronto. 

"We will seek to find a suitable partner who can provide high airport service levels through their commitment to hire as many of our affected WestJetters as possible," Sims said in the video.

The company had 14,000 staff before pandemic border closures and travel restrictions grounded two-thirds of its fleet. Only 4,500 employees are currently on the payroll, and the company says it's looking to bring back 5,500 employees temporarily laid off.

Year-over-year international passenger numbers have plummeted to a fraction of pre-pandemic travel, leading airlines to lay off thousands of employees.

With files from Gary Moore

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