Gulf Air defends payout plan
Manama, February 24, 2013
Bahrain’s national carrier Gulf Air has defended voluntary redundancy packages for staff, saying those who take them are actually getting more than they are entitled to under the Labour Law.
The Gulf Daily News recently reported that unionists had objected to improved redundancy packages for staff on open-ended contracts, which include one month's salary for each year of service plus another three-month payout.
However, the airline yesterday said the new redundancy packages available for a limited period were not only better than a package tabled last month - which offered employees 12 days' pay for every year worked - but went over and above what is required by law.
"The first VRS (Voluntary Redundancy Scheme) was opened in January for a period of two weeks and was extended, but the company does not just leave it open," explained a spokeswoman.
"The first VRS was considerably better than what was required by Bahrain's Labour Law and the new VRS is even better than that."
MPs had voted to freeze redundancies at Gulf Air at the end of last month, but the airline said in a statement yesterday that parliament had approved the new redundancy packages.
"This VRS is part of the airline's restructuring process that will reduce the airline's losses and put it on a path towards sustainability, strengthen Gulf Air's core services, streamline its structure, reduce its losses and re-engineer its internal processes to transform the airline into an efficient and dynamic national carrier that will better serve its passengers and the Kingdom of Bahrain," said the statement.
The carrier is axing hundreds of jobs as part of a major downsizing, which was prompted by MPs vetoing a BD664 million ($1,738.3) bailout of the airline.
The Gulf Air Trade Union said it was hoping for packages that included two months' pay for each year's service and a BD5,000 payout.
"The enhanced package is significantly higher than the legal obligations required by (the) Bahraini Labour Law and will offer employees one month's salary for each completed year of service, plus three months' salary as an ex-gratia payment and payment in lieu of notice period as per contractual entitlements," said the Gulf Air statement.
"In addition staff travel benefits will be extended for six months from the employees' last working day; more generous than the contractual obligation."
Meanwhile, the spokeswoman stressed skilled Bahrainis were not being asked to accept redundancy packages.
"Gulf Air is not offering the VRS to skilled nationals," she said.
"For example, we are not offering it to Bahraini pilots as the company doesn't want to lose them."
She also pledged the carrier would be more open about its restructuring.
"Gulf Air is committed to improving its transparency to stakeholders, including the public, and will from now on release regular updates on the restructuring progress," she said.
"The company will be issuing a statement as early as next week on its January restructuring progress." – TradeArabia News Service