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Row over airline plan to slash 800 jobs

AROUND 800 jobs will be axed during the first phase of a major downsizing plan facing Gulf Air, it has been claimed.

But unionists last night vowed to continue fighting the "hasty decision" to get rid of staff and called for greater transparency.

As many as 1,800 employees could eventually be axed as part of a deal to secure a BD185 million government bailout as the airline seeks to secure its future.

"We have learned from our sources that in the first phase about 800 staff will be redundant, of which 360 are Bahrainis," said Gulf Air Trade Union (GATU) chairman Habib Al Nabbool during an open meeting at the Al Aruba Club, Juffair.

The GDN reported last October that Gulf Air could be dramatically downsized as part of a restructuring plan designed to reduce its losses from BD95 million to BD58m a year by 2017.

It also includes halving the airline's fleet and slashing routes, although both parliament and Shura Council must approve the proposal before it can go ahead.

However, Mr Al Nabbool claimed unionists were kept in the dark regarding future developments.

"There should be some transparency so that at least we, at GATU, know what is exactly happening," he said during the event, attended by airline staff and members of the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions (GFBTU).

It was revealed the airline had issued an internal memo to Bahraini staff stating that the voluntary retirement scheme would include four month's salary plus another month for every year they had worked for the airline.

But some staff called for a flash strike in a bid to pressure the management, which Mr Al Nabbool said would not be legal.

Flight Attendant General Trade Union chairman Maher Arrayed also demanded better redundancy packages to support staff who will lose their jobs.

GATU spokesman Mohammed Mahdi said the downsizing plan was unclear and urged staff not to accept the redundancy package.

"There is no clear picture and we have asked top officials to show us the airline's restructuring plan, but they want us to give them a proposal," he said.

"We are ready for any dialogue with the airline officials to discuss the future of Gulf Air and urge them to pull back their current plans."

The airline's future was discussed last month at a private meeting between Transportation Minister Kamal Ahmed, Mumtalakat chief executive Mahmood Al Kooheji and GATU members. Unionists later said airline officials confirmed they had stopped recruitment in all departments and no Bahraini pilots would be made redundant. sandy@gdn.com.bh



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