Attendants were willing to work with no pay

Sereana Vatubua (left) with Oriva Smith and Saufa’asi Marr during an interview in Nadi yesterday. Picture: BALJEET SINGH

The more than 400 flight attendants who were terminated by Fiji Airways yesterday say they were willing to work for no pay as long as they remained employed.

Fiji Flight Attendants Trade Union president Josaia McGowan said his members were shocked by the decision taken by the airline.

He said cabin crew had made a lot of concessions and were willing to even forego pay to keep the company afloat throughout the COVID-19 crisis.

“We had consultations with Fiji Airways management all through the pandemic,” Mr McGowan said.

“And we have given up a lot of stuff, in line with the financial challenges the company was going through.

“At no point in our discussions, did management hint at mass terminations.

“The company had informed us the 30 per cent pay reduction would take us until June, so this was anticipated.

“The arbitrary decision to terminate all cabin crew on May 25 was a shock, it took us all by complete surprise. Mr McGowan said also puzzling was Fiji Airways’ decision to terminate staff members instead of making them redundant.

“We understood there would be a reduction in head count at some point, but not a full scale mass termination like we have just witnessed.

“The way this issue was handled goes totally against the spirit of good faith and, as far as we are concerned, it is illegal because we have a collective agreement.

“We will contest this decision.”

Fiji Airways managing director and chief executive officer Andre Viljoen said the mass job cuts were the only option the company could take to sustain operations.

“We have no other option but to terminate the employment of staff to whom we cannot provide work, which is an unfortunate but vital step we must take in order to protect our cash position and to preserve as many jobs as possible for those staff who the business needs in order to function today,” he said in a statement released yesterday.

Fiji Airways have a total cabin crew of 435, of which 407 are members of the union.

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