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Southwest warns 6,800 employees could be furloughed in the spring

Southwest warns 6,800 employees could be furloughed in the spring
© Greg Nash

Southwest Airlines told employees on Thursday that 6,800 workers may have to be furloughed in the spring.

The U.S. government gave airlines $25 billion earlier this year on the condition that they hold off on any involuntary job cuts until December. United Airlines and American Airlines furloughed 32,000 employees on Oct. 1, the day after the requirement ended.

If Southwest goes through with the layoff it would be the first time it has done so in 50 years, CNN reports. The news outlet notes that the airline is among the most profitable major U.S. airlines, but experienced $2.75 billion in losses this year.

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In October, Southwest asked 12 unions that represent more than 80 percent of their workforce to accept 10 percent pay cuts in order to avoid furloughs. According to CNN, the airline has reached agreements with the meteorologist and dispatcher unions.

In a memo sent to employees, the company wrote, “We are not closing the door — we'll continue negotiations if union representatives want to continue working toward reaching mutually agreeable solutions."

Captain Jon Weaks, president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, said, "While this development is not completely surprising it is incredibly disappointing to our pilots and their families.”

According to Weaks, Southwest Airlines has not made any counter offers to the several cost-cutting offers that have been put forward by the pilots union.

Airlines had hoped for another stimulus bill to pass, joining other sectors in a digital campaign calling on Congress to pass another coronavirus relief bill. Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly said in October, "We simply cannot afford to continue with the conditions required to maintain full pay and employment.” 

Recent reports have indicated that Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiBiden coronavirus relief bill tests narrow Democratic majority Some Republicans say proxy voting gives advantage to Democrats Gun violence prevention groups optimistic background check legislation can pass this Congress MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTanden withdraws nomination as Biden budget chief Boehner book jacket teases slams against Cruz, Trump Gun violence prevention groups optimistic background check legislation can pass this Congress MORE (R-Ky.) may come to a compromise, with both leaders hoping to pass a new bill before Christmas. A spokesperson for Pelosi said Thursday that she and McConnell had spoken on the phone and discussed their "shared commitment to completing an omnibus and COVID relief as soon as possible.”