WestJet announces more layoffs, route reductions in response to federal COVID test requirement

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However, the requirement announced by the federal government on Dec. 31 is different in that it requires Canadians to access a test in a foreign country in order to board a flight home while still requiring the quarantine period.

Barry Prentice, a professor of supply chain management at the University of Manitoba, said the policy will essentially crush demand for international travel.

“It really shuts down people’s travel plans, and maybe that was the intent,” Prentice said. “But I think this requirement is a bit over the top. If people are going into quarantine anyway, where is the risk of spread?”

On Friday, Calgary Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner called the WestJet layoffs “another tragic blow” to Calgary’s already fragile economy.

“WestJet’s announcement today is the result of confusing and ever-changing government policies on travel,” Rempel Garner said, adding a better option would be post-arrival testing options at all Canadian airports.

“Justin Trudeau has decided to double down on new haphazard policies on pre-arrival testing that lack clarity and are causing confusion and chaos for Canadians abroad, and job losses here at home,” Rempel Garner said.

WestJet currently has 5,200 furloughed employees. Lior Samfiru, a lawyer with Calgary employment law firm Samfiru Tumarkin LLP, said it’s important for employees of any company to understand that they don’t have to accept a furlough, a reduction in hours or changes in compensation. Employees can choose to accept a termination instead, and be eligible for severance.

“I’m not advocating anyone do it or not do it, but employees should be aware of their options and rights,” Samfiru said. “Depending on how long you’ve worked for your employer, you could be owed as much as two years’ severance if you choose to treat that temporary layoff as a termination of employment. For some employees, that may be a better option.”

— With files from The Canadian Press

astephenson@postmedia.com

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