Bankrupt Northwest Airlines will be laying off workers at 69 airports - including about 20 employees in Jacksonville - and replacing them with employees from third-party companies as part of an attempt to slash $190 million from its labor costs.
The Jacksonville workers will be laid off as of Nov. 13, employees said Tuesday, and will be replaced with workers from Pinnacle Airlines who earn about one-third of what the Northwest workers do. Pinnacle is a company that operates as a regional carrier on behalf of Northwest.
Pinnacle runs three flights a day out of Jacksonville, in addition to the three flights Northwest itself runs. "This change will have no impact on our flight presence in Jacksonville," Northwest spokesman Roman Blahoski said Tuesday. "The airline will continue to have ample staff to serve our customers."
The employees being laid off include all of the workers Northwest has at Jacksonville International Airport, from the check-in counter worker to the person who off-loads baggage from arriving planes. Pilots, flight attendants and other onboard personnel will not be affected.
A few of the local employees have taken the company up on an offer to move them to one of the 40 airports that Northwest will continue to staff, although doing so means that an employee with less seniority at the other site will be bumped out of a job. However, two employees spoken with Tuesday - both of whom asked that their names not be used for fear of retaliation - said they wanted nothing more to do with the Eagan, Minn.-based airline.
"They were always pretty good to you," said one employee, who has worked for Northwest for more than two decades. "Now it makes no sense whatsoever to stay on. It's a whole different company."
Both employees were still upset over a booklet given to workers being laid off in North Dakota, Montana, and Texas with tips on saving money including "Don't be shy about pulling something you like out of the trash" and "take shorter showers." The booklet was created by a vendor, the company said, and was pulled from undistributed packages after worker complaints.
"Their only answer was 'We didn't care enough to read it,'" the other employee said about management's response to worker outrage. "They just don't care enough."
The other option offered to workers at the airports from which Northwest is removing staff is to sign up with the third-party company, which include Worldwide Flight Services, Airport Terminal Services Inc and others. That would mean a cut in pay, said one of the Jacksonville employees, moving from an average of $20 an hour to an average of $7.45 with a company like Pinnacle.
On Monday, Northwest said that it expects to post a loss for the rest of the month, although it anticipates earning a "modest profit" for the entire year.
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