WestJet tells workers their pay will be cut by half due to wage subsidy changes

WestJet tells workers their pay will be cut by half due to wage subsidy changes
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CALGARY — WestJet Airlines Ltd. is warning workers receiving the federal wage subsidy they will see their pay cut by up to 53 per cent starting Sunday.

A company memo sent to WestJetters on Wednesday states that the maximum weekly payment for employees on the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy will drop to $400 per week, down from $847.

In the message, vice-president Mark Porter attributes the change to the federal government aligning a newly extended wage subsidy with employment insurance, which is expanding as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit expires on Sept. 27.

WestJet flight attendants are calling on the government to clarify when and how much money will arrive in company coffers via the federal subsidy in order determine whether wages can return to current levels.

Chris Rauenbusch, who represents about 4,000 WestJet flight attendants with the Canadian Union of Public Employees — nearly two-thirds of whom benefit from the subsidy — says the airline cannot float worker wages until the federal government specifies the amounts payable to WestJet and “fills in the blanks” around the program.

Rauenbusch says employees have called him in tears at the prospect of failing to make rent, and that the federal government has created a “frustrating” situation.

The WestJet memo followed the Liberal government’s throne speech Wednesday night, which extended the wage subsidy into next summer.

WestJet spokeswoman Morgan Bell says the Calgary-based company is administering the program based on the details and guidance currently available.

The federal finance department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 25, 2020

The Canadian Press

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