Dec. 3 (UPI) -- Hindered by depressed demand for air travel, Southwest Airlines on Thursday gave furlough warnings to nearly 7,000 employees after a deal to cut wages by 10% next year stalled.
The warning went out to 6,800 pilots, flight attendants and other employees and union members. If the carrier furloughs any staff, it would be the first time in Southwest's 50-year history that it's ever issued involuntary dismissals or cut salaries.
Southwest gave the furlough warning to 1,200 pilots, 1,500 flight attendants, 2,500 ramp workers and 1,200 customer service employees in ground transportation. The furloughs could occur as soon as March.
"We have been engaged with our unions since early October seeking temporary cost reductions to help offset over one billion dollars of over staffing costs projected for 2021," Southwest Vice President of Labor Relations Russell McCrady said.
"Our absolute goal is to preserve every job at Southwest Airlines; however, due to a lack of meaningful progress in negotiations, we had to proceed with issuing notifications to additional employees who are valued members of the Southwest family."
Southwest Airlines Pilots Association President Jon Weaks said the union has been active in proposing options to avoid furloughs, but all have been rejected by company negotiators.
"Today marks a sad milestone,'' Weaks said.
Southwest reported this fall that revenues fell by almost 70% in the third quarter.