The airline pilots’ union has demanded that Norwegian, the low cost carrier that recently emerged from bankruptcy, should pay the salaries of dismissed UK pilots.
Norwegian filed for bankruptcy late in November 2020 after the Norwegian government decided not to extend further state aid to the airline. Its subsidiary Norwegian Air Resources UK (NAR) was shut down in January this year, causing the redundancy of 1,100 pilots and crew at Gatwick.
The airline restructured and relaunched with fewer aircraft and routes in May 2021.
On 1 February redundant UK employees were told by liquidator KPMG that they would not be paid their owed salary, holiday or notice pay, but could claim part of their pay arrears from the UK government.
The British Pilots’ Association (Balpa) has renewed demands that Norwegian cover unpaid salaries for dismissed British pilots.
The move comes a few days after Norway’s industry minister said the airline showed poor judgement when it paid bonuses to top management just weeks after emerging from government-backed bankruptcy proceedings.
To help save Norwegian from collapse, the Norwegian government in mid-2020 provided the carrier with loan guarantees of three billion Norwegian krone (£250m) and later another hybrid loan to the tune of about £125m.
But soon after the restructuring, Norwegian began paying out bonuses of some 30 million Norwegian krone (about £2.5m) combined to managers as a reward for saving the company.
“That shows poor judgment,” minister of trade and industry Iselin Nyboe said in a statement. “The board and chief executive Geir Karlsen have a big job ahead of them in explaining this and rebuilding the reputation of Norwegian.”
Balpa has said it wants “fair early retirement compensation” for Norwegian’s former pilots at the disused base at Gatwick in London.
But the airline told Norwegian online news provider E24 last week that the UK union did not have a valid claim. A spokesperson said: “The points raised are not new and do not change the circumstances of NAR UK’s bankruptcy at the beginning of the year. When it became clear that Norwegian would no longer operate intercontinental flights, NAR UK went bankrupt because there was no longer a financial basis for the company.”
Our Government promised sector specific support. 1000’s of redundancies later the aviation industry is reliant on a furlough scheme due to end in September.
The scheme needs to be extended to provide some form of protection for pilots and their families (1/2) pic.twitter.com/4bqtC6n90T
— BALPA (@BALPApilots) July 2, 2021
Meanwhile, the union is continuing to appeal to the government to make a targeted intervention to support the airline industry in the UK.
Balpa rep Craig Wilson told the Scottish Parliament last week on the union’s Travel Day of Action last week: “Let’s be very clear, people’s livelihoods are at risk, an entire industry is at risk. Pilots will continue to pressure the UK government to save jobs by extending furlough and providing direct support to airlines and airports.”
Balpa was contacted on 5 July by Personnel Today for further comment.