The Virgin Australia Group will make 1,000 of its 8,000 stood down employees permanently redundant, including all 220 Tigerair pilots.
Chief executive Paul Scurrah made the initial announcement on the ABC on Thursday morning, before the Australian Federation of Air Pilots (AFAP) confirmed the Tigerair news hours later.
It comes after the business announced on Wednesday it was to temporarily suspend 80 per cent of its staff and would increase domestic capacity reductions from 50 to 90 per cent.
AFAP industrial officer James Lauchland told The Sydney Morning Herald, “It is disappointing that while Virgin is trying to reassure the travelling public that it will maintain a low-cost carrier, it is dismissing all of Tigerair’s pilots at the same time.”
In an earlier short interview with the ABC, Scurrah said Virgin Australia would make 1,000 staff redundant but was in talks with 25 partners, including Coles, to try and redeploy them.
It follows a similar agreement between Qantas and Woolworths.
Scurrah said, “This is the worst airline crisis the world has ever seen. We are doing everything we can to make sure there are other income sources during this crisis.”
Those affected are able to draw down their accrued leave entitlements, but the group warned there would be cases where people would go without pay.
Alongside the temporary stand-downs, which ensure workers still remain attached to their company, the business appeared to indicate it was intending to permanently close its New Zealand cabin crew and pilot base, and its Tigerair Melbourne pilot base.
Scurrah also hinted the business that would emerge on the other side of the pandemic would be different.
It’s with a heavy heart that we’re temporarily suspending most of our domestic flights from midnight 27 Mar-14 Jun due to new travel restrictions. We’re in this together and we can’t wait to see you in the skies again soon. To change your flight, visit: https://t.co/koj4rID1PJ pic.twitter.com/JvLA1MKqWf
— Virgin Australia (@VirginAustralia) March 24, 2020
“We plan to return Tigerair Australia and Virgin Australia to the skies as soon as it’s viable to do so, however, I am mindful that how we operate today may look different when we get to the other side of this crisis,” said Scurrah.
The Transport Workers Union praised Virgin Australia’s management for engaging with the union but asked the government to do more.
National secretary Michael Kaine said, “We are pleased that Virgin at least has agreed to discuss how workers can be compensated for the leave they have diligently built up, in some cases for their retirement. We urge other employers, like Qantas, to follow suit.”
He added that workers should not have to “shoulder the burden” by taking holiday time and should not be drastically worse off when COVID-19 finally abates.
Kaine said, “It is important that we plan for the end of this crisis as well as deal with the tumultuous impact of the pandemic at present. Workers need to be able to get back to work and ensure [they do] not have their entire reserves, whether it is leave, savings or superannuation funds, wiped out.”