Gulf Air union mulls legal move over staff cuts
Manama, July 15, 2013
Legal action could now be taken on behalf of 34 former employees of Bahrain’s national carrier Gulf Air, who were made redundant as part of a major downsizing of the airline, said trade unionists.
The General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions (GFBTU) and the Gulf Air Trade Union (GATU) met over the weekend to discuss legal options available, reported the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
"Both the GFBTU and GATU gathered with the 34 dismissed staff in order to discuss the next step," GATU spokesman Mohammad Mahdi told the GDN.
"Following several meetings during the past couple of months with the Labour Ministry, the airline's management and the union it seems that little to no progress has been made to reinstate these workers.
"The unions have been patiently waiting for the management to address the issue, but now we are moving towards legal action."
The airline launched an initial voluntary redundancy programme in January, followed by an improved scheme in February that extended into March.
It then began compulsory redundancies in May, but was told to halt forced layoffs soon afterwards by the government - before beginning another voluntary redundancy programme last month.
The union claims the 34 employees handed compulsory redundancy should have been reinstated when forced layoffs were halted.
"We are meeting with the GFBTU lawyers to discuss the options we have," said Mahdi.
"There are a few that have been talked about like legal mediation, lawsuits and a few others, which we will not disclose at this time.
"Promises were made in relation to workers' grievances that were never fulfilled, not to mention that the staff who were made redundant were supposed to be reinstated as soon as the decision to reopen the voluntary redundancy scheme was taken.
"As the order to revert from a compulsory redundancy scheme to a voluntary scheme came from the Labour Ministry, those dismissals should have been reversed as well.
"Within the next few days, after more meetings with the lawyers, GATU will announce a plan of action."
The voluntary redundancy scheme was relaunched following a joint meeting of the Labour Ministry, Gulf Air and Bahrain Mumtalakat Holding Company last month.
However, the airline previously said it was necessary to make the 34 redundant as part of a three-year restructuring programme that commenced in January.
It also said staff made redundant had received "generous" severance packages that were significantly higher than the requirements of Bahrain's Labour Law.
The restructuring plan involves cutting jobs, reducing the airline's fleet and network.
It was expected to achieve cost savings of 24 per cent by the end of the year and reduce the airline's losses from BD95 million ($246 million) to BD58 million by 2017.
Around 3,800 people were employed by Gulf Air when the restructuring was announced, but up to 1,066 of those jobs were expected to go - half of them based overseas.
The airline announced that 15 per cent of its workforce had been reduced by the end of February, but has released no other figures relating to the downsizing since.
A Gulf Air representative told the GDN yesterday that the airline would not comment on the threat of legal action by former employees. – TradeArabia News Service