Gulf Air union fears 'management ploy'
Manama, June 20, 2013
Union leaders at Bahrain's national carrier Gulf Air fear the management is trying to drive a wedge between them and the workforce following a proposal by the company to oversee the process of union membership.
The airline has offered to handle union membership applications through its human resources department, but the Gulf Air Trade Union (GATU) is worried that this is simply a ploy to undermine its authority, said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
Union president Habib Al Nabbool told the GDN that the proposal was still under consideration, but added that it had been met with suspicion.
"The system proposed would be run by Gulf Air's human resources department, which would mean that most of the correspondence with the union and its members would be through the airline," said Al Nabbool.
"The airline has said it will do this to assist the union. The system, in theory, would be a great help - but because it would all go through human resources it would isolate the workers from the union and limit face-to-face communication, which is very important.
"We are not accepting it or rejecting it at this stage as it has to be discussed in more detail with the rest of the GATU board. In addition to that, we want to get some legal advice about the repercussions and the legality of such a proposition,” he added.
Nabbool said the lack of information from the Gulf Air management about the airline's restructuring programme indicated it was not in the mood to co-operate with unionists.
He also feared that increased airline involvement could actually deter potential union members - and even cause existing members to leave.
"With Gulf Air management being fully in charge of the restructuring and the lack of information coming from them, the unions are the only impartial help that workers can get," he said.
"Also, workers are already tense after the recent firing of 34 staff members in March and are feeling targeted. The consensus is that workers already feel the union might be targeted and if this system is initiated, members may leave for that reason.
"There are a lot of factors to take into account and we will have to explore them all before we take a stance on it,” he noted.
Al Nabbool added that although at least 20 of the 34 staff made redundant appealed, none were reinstated.
Gulf Air did not comment yesterday, but the airline is in the midst of a major downsizing intended to achieve cost savings of 24 per cent by the end of the year and reduce the airline's losses from BD95 million ($250.6 million) to BD58 million by 2017.
Around 3,800 people were employed by the carrier, which is reportedly seeking to shed up to 1,066 jobs as part of the massive downsizing operation.
The airline earlier said 15 per cent of its workforce had been reduced at the end of February as a result of its voluntary retirement scheme. – TradeArabia News Service