Rex has confirmed it will stand down 500 staff from Monday until at least 12 September.
The business also revealed all affected employees will be eligible for the federal government’s $750-a-week COVID payments and remaining shifts on essential flights will be shared around between flight attendants.
Rex’s stand-downs will include pilots, cabin crew, engineers, airport workers, call centre, ground and head office operational staff.
“This arrangement for our flight attendants is a great example of a pragmatic and unified approach as we grapple with the devastating consequences of lockdowns and border closures which have ravaged the entire aviation industry,” said John Sharp, Rex’s deputy chairman.
Sharp said all eligible full-time staff stood down would receive income support either through being in a state hotspot or via the government’s new airline-specific support scheme.
Earlier this month, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce announced the federal government’s new Retaining Domestic Airline Capability scheme, which would see airline staff outside of COVID lockdowns gain access to JobKeeper-style payments of $750 per week.
Previously, stood-down workers in aviation could only gain access to financial support if they live in areas that are locked down, through the government’s general COVID-19 Disaster Payment scheme.
The new aviation COVID aid sparked widespread confusion when it was first announced, as early reports suggested the payments were only on offer to pilots and cabin crew, and would only be offered to 50 per cent of all stood-down staff members.
However, a spokesperson for the Deputy Prime Minister’s office later confirmed that “any frontline staff employed by an airline are eligible” for the aviation-specific support program, which does include all airport or ground workers employed by an airline, however, subcontractors are not eligible.
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At the start of August, Qantas announced it would stand down 2,500 employees for around two months.
The business group said the “temporary measure” was due to a drop in flying that saw its capacity reduce from almost 100 per cent in May to just 40 per cent in July.
Qantas gave staff two weeks’ notice with their pay continuing until mid-August.
Chief executive Alan Joyce said it was the “last thing the airline wanted to do” but maintained the situation was far better than this time last year.
“We’ve absorbed a significant amount of cost since these recent lockdowns started and continued paying our people their full rosters despite thousands of cancelled flights,” said Joyce.
“Hopefully, once other states open back up to South Australia and Victoria in the next week or so, and the current outbreak in Brisbane is brought under control, our domestic flying will come back to around 50 to 60 per cent of normal levels.
“Based on current case numbers, it’s reasonable to assume that Sydney’s borders will be closed for at least another two months. We know it will take a few weeks once the outbreak is under control before other states open to New South Wales and normal travel can resume.
“Fortunately, we know that once borders do reopen, travel is at the top of people’s list and flying tends to come back quickly, so we can get our employees back to work.
“This is extremely challenging for the 2,500 of our people directly impacted, but it’s also very different from this time last year when we had more than 20,000 employees stood down and most of our aircraft in hibernation for months on end.
“The vaccine rollout means the end is in sight and the concept of lockdowns will be a thing of the past. Australia just needs more people rolling up their sleeves as more vaccine arrives.
“The challenge around opening international borders remains. There are still several thousand Qantas and Jetstar crew who normally fly internationally and who have been on long periods of stand down since the pandemic began. Higher vaccination rates are also key to being able to fly overseas again, and finally getting all our people back to work.”
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