Air Seychelles announces voluntary redundancy plan for staff to help tackle $153 million debt
The company said that the voluntary redundancy first targets staff members aged 55 and up, but that it is also available to other staff members who are interested in exiting the company. (Air Seychelles)
(Seychelles News Agency) - Air Seychelles on Tuesday began a voluntary redundancy in particular targeting older workers as part of its evaluation of its manpower plan in order to sustain the airline's long-term operations.
The company said that the voluntary redundancy first targets staff members aged 55 and up, but that it is also available to other staff members who are interested in exiting the company.
The debt crisis Air Seychelles faces has been the subject of many discussions in the executive and the legislative branches of government of the island nation in western Indian Ocean.
The Minister of Finance, Naadir Hassan, said in his budget address last week that Air Seychelles still has a debt of more than $153 million, or about SCR3.361 billion.
"The question that we need to ask ourselves is who will be paying this huge debt? It is clear that our government does not have the financial resources to absorb that kind of debt, even with the possibility of restructuring these debts. And don't forget that these debts are in foreign currency and it is the reserve at the Central Bank that will have to be used to pay for this," said Hassan.
With immediate effect, staff members will be given two weeks to apply for voluntary redundancy by submitting an application letter to their respective department.
As part of the exit package, staff will receive three months basic pay based on the February 2021 salary, one month full salary in lieu of notice, compensation for length of service, accrued annual leave pay for 2021 only, salary for the period worked until the date of departure from the company, and an unlimited supplementary ticket for the staff member and their immediate family in the economy or business class for two years.
A spokesperson of Air Seychelles said that before any redundancy is approved, the company will analyse it first and that "this is because there are people with required skill set which will still be needed by the company to ensure business continuity."
This is the third time in the last decade that the national airline is downsizing as part of its restructuring plans. In 2012 around 166 staff members of the Air Seychelles were made redundant and in 2018 around 170 were laid off.
Air Seychelles said this step is being taken to adapt to the unprecedented business environment faced by airlines globally due to a downturn in tourism and border control measures amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The airlines said that late last year, even if markets had reopened and "we were hopeful that the situation would improve, extended closure of borders across our network has led us to evaluate our manpower needs during this challenging time."
The company added that "having reviewed the overhead costs, operating model and headcount plans based on all possible scenarios, it is clear that the airline will not be able to sustain the current HM family as is."
Meanwhile, President Wavel Ramkalawan announced on Monday following his visit to UAE that an agreement was reached to halt any payment for Air Seychelles partnership agreement with Etihad Airways this year while further negotiations continue.
Negotiations between the two airlines are based on the mode of payment for the debt accumulated and for the return of the Etihad shares in order to reinstate the Seychelles' national carrier as fully Seychellois-owned.