Northwest lays off 10,000 workers

by Justin Ware

Northwest Airlines announced Friday it would immediately lay off 10,000 employees because of a 20 percent drop in flight routes. The cutbacks are a result of low flight demand stemming from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“The current operating environment dictates that we reduce our flying schedule significantly, which in turn requires a significant reduction in our staffing levels and payroll,” Northwest CEO Richard Anderson said. “These reductions are necessary to maintain Northwest Airlines as a successful company.”

The airline said all work groups will be affected by cuts to 9,000 contract workers and 1,000 management employees.

Northwest’s 20 percent workforce cuts and schedule reductions are consistent with the rest of the airline industry.

Just one day before Northwest’s reductions, United and American Airlines each laid off 20,000 employees – roughly 20 percent of their workforces.

The layoffs have sent local unions and work assistance programs scrambling to help those who lost their jobs over the weekend.

“Staff from the Displaced Worker’s Program and Northwest Airlines have met to discuss options,” said Kit Borgman, spokeswoman for the program.

“I do expect we can help all those who need help,” Borgman said.

The Displaced Worker’s Program uses federal and state dollars to help those who have lost jobs find training and placement in new occupations.

“We have never seen anything like this before,” said Paul Moe, the program’s director.

“We are going to do everything in our power to get as many dollars in Minnesota to help mass layoffs,” Moe said.

Anne Meyer, representative for Teamsters Local 2000, a flight attendant’s union, said Local 2000 is working on establishing leaves with its employees and Northwest.

The leaves would allow employees who have lost their jobs the opportunity to keep benefits, such as medical coverage. The employees would also maintain their seniority on leave and would have an easier time recovering their jobs, should they reopen.

“We are still in the process of finding out how many (Northwest has) laid off,” Meyer said.

As of Friday, 500 employees of the Local 2000 no longer had jobs.

The airline industry’s struggles affect many other travel-related businesses in the Twin Cities.

“This is not a one-dimensional layoff,” Moe said. “Every layoff at Northwest can mean one or two additional layoffs in other related businesses.”

The hospitality industry – which includes hotels – has felt a sharp decline in business along with the airlines.

“It has been kind of slow lately,” said Amanda Cotton, a Bloomington Holiday Inn employee.

Cotton said the hotel has been operating at 30 percent to 40 percent of its possible occupancy the past week.

“Normally, we’re at 100 percent,” she said.

While the layoffs are certain to cause temporary problems for those whose livelihoods depended on the airlines, many working to ease the problem remain optimistic.

“We all know the (air) traffic is going to increase,” Meyer said.

Meyer said the arrival of the holiday season, along with the country’s dependence on air travel, will cause passenger traffic to climb near to what it was before the attacks and bring back the jobs lost Friday.

“It’s not going to be this way forever,” she said.

 

Justin Ware welcomes comments at [email protected]