DALLAS — Southwest Airlines is moving closer to the first furloughs in the airline's nearly 50-year history.
The airline warned nearly 7,000 employees this week that they could lose their jobs unless labor unions accept concessions to help Southwest cope with a sharp drop in travel during the pandemic. That's roughly 12% of the airline's staff.
The jobs impacted include customer service agents, ramp agents, operations agents, provisioning agents and freight agents nationwide. Last month, Southwest warned another 400 mechanics could be furloughed.
Southwest is seeking pay cuts of around 10% in exchange for no furloughs through 2021.
In WARN letters required by law of the possible involuntary furloughs, Southwest says they were able to operate without any employee pay cuts, layoffs or furloughs this year because of the Payroll Support Program in the CARES Act from Congress.
Once the protections and funding expired on September 30, the airline says they implemented voluntary separation opportunities, "with approximately 25 percent of Employees taking voluntary options," the airline writes.
The airline’s top labor-relations official says negotiations with unions have stalled.
Unions say they have proposed cost-cutting measures to Southwest, but management has rejected them and refuses to consider any more voluntary buyouts to reduce the workforce.